Critic’s Picks: Seattle

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TALLY 108 II, 2013, Catherine Eaton Skinner
Encaustic and oil on panel, 36″ x 36″
Photo: courtesy Abmeyer + Wood Fine Art

Since the dawn of civilization, humankind has relied on systems of counting to keep track of its possessions, organize, and bring a sense of order to what might otherwise be utter chaos. Working with the number 108, a particularly significant number in Buddhist and Hindu philosophies, Catherine Eaton Skinner makes visually manifest various systems of counting through a wide variety of techniques that include incisions with a stick, sumi brush strokes, delicate tracery, and the use of her fingers to drag paint across the surface. The result in her solo show, “re re: one by one,” is a variety of works joined fast by a common denominator, but also evoking the random: various symbols and code systems from ancient to present day. Her large panels might be ancient textiles, graffiti, or half-erased blackboards that span tribal ritual, urban outrage, or the calm collective consciousness of the classroom. All are a testament to the human desire to shape the future. “Each piece becomes an offering to new possibilities,” says Skinner. “A modern mandala born of ancient traditions.” Her work will be on view at Abmeyer + Wood, November 7 — December 1.

Installation view “Boys, Jokes and Things,” 2013, Dawn Cerny
Photo: courtesy SEASON

Working fluidly across a range of mediums that include painting, printmaking and sculpture, Dawn Cerny’s solo exhibit “Boys, Jokes, and Things” features a pair of candlesticks ironically crafted out of paper. Is it a nod to the flourishing bric-a-brac trade whose catalogs feature items that are designed to evoke comfortable warmth, even if their actual function is minimal to nonexistent? “We tastefully decorate with homey objects that taste mildly aspirational,” writes Cerny. “We display soft monuments made of paper and blood and plaster and yarn and limp erections and glue. A copy of something by Isherwood by Forster by Auden by Dšblin. This is familiar. This is so familiar it feels embarrassing.” In the screenprint installation Give It to Me (2012), the figure of an awkwardly positioned man is captured in a state of undress, his clothes pulled halfway over his head, momentarily blinding him. This view, Cerny seems to suggest, is akin to the vulnerability we experience when we invite others into the pseudo private sphere of our domestic space. For it’s under the roofs that house our marriages, children, hopes and dreams that we so often display the items that ostensibly have the power to define us, for better or for worse. Dawn Cerny’s “Boys, Jokes, and Things” remains on view at SEASON, through December 29.

“Bayou Dreams,” 2013, Miles Cleveland Goodwin
Acrylic and dirt on canvas, 95½” x 85″
Photo: courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery

Oregon painter Miles Cleveland Goodwin explores dark themes born from his experiences in the Deep South. The title of his first solo exhibit at Greg Kucera Gallery, “Montebella Road,” takes its name from the location of his current residence, situated between Biloxi and New Orleans, and is made up of works that seem familiar in the way of a recurring dream. Goodwin’s large-scale canvases, executed in muted tones of greys, blues, and whites are a natural fit for his finely-detailed oil on panel paintings of landscapes that feature subjects who are both there and not there: the remnant of a snakeskin, a lonely casket maker lost in contemplation. But Goodwin is far from forging a complaint about these seemingly desolate situations. On the contrary, his works act as a reflection on family, community, love, and the messy business that having any of these entail. A description of his life on Montebella Road includes calming down an autistic nephew after seeing a spider, and an aunt who recently lost her husband. “I believe in a heart and a soul,” says Goodwin. “I must say, I’ve come to find out the world is in my heart and the South is in my soul.” The show runs at Greg Kucera Gallery from November 21 — December 21, 2013.

“Float,” 2013, Tracy Rocca, Oil on Polyester over Panel, 42″ x 42″
Photo: courtesy Winston Wachter Fine Art

Although she begins with a precise geographic location, painter Tracy Rocca uses her subject matter as an invitation to travel inwards. Raised in the Northwest, Rocca creates canvases that evoke the region’s foggy, rain-soaked haze, albeit punctuated with the vivid colors of the changing seasons. The images glimpsed therein might be a wildflower blown up beyond all recognition, or the world perceived through a single drop of rain. “By blurring the details I create a window into an unspecified yet familiar environment,” she notes. These highly saturated color field paintings lead to what Rocca hopes is “a place where the mind can rest.” Inspired in part by the landscape of New Mexico where she currently resides, Rocca is equally driven by a desire to create a distance between her painterly production and the speed of most modern devices, which we use to almost instantaneously capture, post, and re-tweet the details of our busy lives. “Ultimately a single point of focus or light emerges from within the paintings,” writes Rocca, “creating the enveloping sense of meditative focus that characterizes my paintings.” In Rocca’s hands, this beam of light is often the portal through which visitors might travel far and wide, only to discover themselves being safely led back home. Tracy Rocca at Winston Wachter can be seen through December 25, 2013.

“Yosemite Valley,” 2013, Mary Iverson, Oil on canvas, 60″ x 48″
Photo: courtesy Davidson Galleries

Throughout much of the 19th century, images of the tree stump populated American artists’ canvases, both documenting and denouncing the subjugation of the forest wilderness. The culprit in the case of Mary Iverson’s painting isn’t the axe, but globalization, as symbolized by shipping containers in her solo exhibit titled “Sunk.” In the first of two recently completed series of works, brightly colored shipping containers executed in oil paint are juxtaposed against images of Yosemite NationalÊPark, whose various vistas lie trapped below a bevy of measurement lines dotted with the forms of brightly colored boxes used to ship goods all over the world. The second series, created with photographs from travel and environmental magazines and wall calendars, have been superimposed with Iverson’s finely detailed paintings of flooding throughout some of the world’s most famous cities. In Moscow (2013), the gilt onion domes of the city peek out from the rising water, buffeted on all sides by a bevy of buoyant boxes–whose colorful, candy-toned appearance is about as unexpected as Putin sauntering the city streets in clown shoes, making for work that is both visually arresting and shockingly effective. Mary Iverson “Sunk” can be seen at Davidson Galleries, November 8 — 30, 2013.

“Untitled #4 (Bounce With Me/Artforum series),” 2013, Lisa Liedgren
C-print, 20″ x 30″ Photo: courtesy Prole Drift Gallery

They might be squares, but there’s nothing simple about the recent body of work created by Lisa Liedgren whose work takes apart formal patterns and abstract systems only to recreate them in pictorial terms. Recently she’s tackled one of the art world’s greatest titans: the magazine Artforum. An ongoing series, Liedgren’s 2009 work Bounce with Me/Artforum used the October 2006 magazine issue as a model. She divided gouache on paper squares into still more squares, slicing and dividing–sometimes horizontally sometimes vertically–to reproduce the magazine’s editorial and commercial content in the most abstract terms possible. “Reading” Liedgren’s squares within squares, viewers can get a feel for the flow of the publication, from the full-page articles and reproductions at its core to the least expensive quarter-page ads near the back. For her most current body of work Liedgren recreated versions of the same piece, then subjected them to entirely different treatments. One work uses straight pins, another is displayed in reverse, yet another is crafted out of fabric, allowing it to be perceived as a discarded piece of trashÑan entirely plausible outcome, even for a highly lauded magazine like Artforum. Which keeps Liedgren’s work, even at its most conceptual, perfectly real. Lisa Liedgren at Prole Drift closes November 9, 2013.

—SUZANNE BEAL