Daphne Minkoff: “Highly Colored Space” at Linda Hodges Gallery


For her eighth solo show at Linda Hodges since 2003, Seattle artist and North Seattle College art professor Daphne Minkoff took an archaeological approach to depicting various locales in Seattle’s Central District, a historically Jewish and African-American neighborhood that is rapidly undergoing transformation and gentrification. In fact, some of the structures she portrays in her small (18 by 24 inches) canvases of oil, altered photographs, and mixed media have already been demolished. Seen on one level as an aesthetic rescue mission, “Highly Colored Space” is a documentation of vanishing urban spaces in the form of 32 paintings that memorialize doomed storefronts, houses, restaurants, roads and back yards. On another level, when de-contextualized, they operate as abstracted cityscapes in the tradition of Richard Diebenkorn, photographer Aaron Siskind and local painter Paul Havas. Minkoff begins each painting with her photographs, then paints over them, and scrapes (or “excavates”) back into them to create the illusion of peeling paint, graffiti, and fading labels or signs.

Blue Light (all works 2015) reveals National Rifle Association graffiti on a wall while Hardware highlights the store’s sign with its missing letters. Abandoned supermarket shopping carts (in Nomads View 1 and Nomads View 2) and crumbling houses (An Inner Strength Still Remains) provide the outer limits of any explicit social commentary. Elsewhere, deteriorating sites become gentrified by Minkoff: appealingly colored, divided into color blocks, and far from any hint of detritus or decay. Of these, Remnant, Think Blink View 2, and T-Docks View 1 are the most abstract and least troubled by the artist’s concerned interventions. They put the more random scenes into a decorative space, perhaps undercutting the artist’s program of identification, rescue, memory and protest. The brutal cropping of the original photos extends to the composition of the resulting mixed-media pictures. Older houses, as in Broken Heart: I Want it Back and Deeply Rooted Foundation, become picturesque rather than cautionary. The T-Dock Views (a popular Lake Washington inner-city swimming beach), along with Offramp and Simplicity Brings Forgetfulness, are the airiest, and most promising. They show open white and blue skies that are filled with rain about to fall on solitary constructions.

Minkoff’s chronicle is selective in its choice of dwelling and community hangouts. Her treatment avoids any real anguish or rage, settling instead for colorful, wistful nostalgia, a feeling that no doubt will increase with time as the city’s other neighborhoods are gradually replaced with unaffordable housing and economically upward-shifting demographics.

Daphne Minkoff
Collage, oil on board
24″ x 18″
Photo: courtesy Linda Hodges Gallery