Category Archives: Seattle Art Museum

Modernism in the Pacific Northwest

Forms Follow Man

Forms Follow Man

I have to say I was a little skeptical about this show at the Seattle Art Museum.  It’s not that I doubt the quality of the shows at SAM, but I have a little bias against Mark Tobey.  In her book, Art of Emily Carr,   Doris Shadbolt  says of Tobey:  ” American artist Mark Tobey claimed credit for inspiring Carr’s “great swirling canvases, [and] wonderful tree forms,”

Never mind.  Emily was above all the fray.  Her comment on Tobey:  “He is clever, but he has no soul.”

We can forgive the hubris.  The man’s contribution to modernism is significant.  The art critic, Clement Greenberg, gave Tobey credit for inventing the overall gestural painting style….not Jackson Pollock!  As was the case with the artist Robert Irwin in California, and Emily Carr in Victoria, Tobey’s location in Seattle prevented him from becoming a household name like Jackson Pollock. The abstract expressionists in New York got all the buzz.

Modernism in the Pacific Northwest also highlighted the work of Morris Graves, Kenneth Callahan and Guy Anderson.  The art is strong, and rooted in deeply held personal philosophies.

The curators at SAM did an excellent job of explaining the historical significance of the these painters.  They made it clear how the art was firmly rooted in the political and philosophical movements of the time.


Here is a short list (shortlist*) of reasons why I like the Seattle Art Museum….

Inopportune: Stage One

Inopportune: Stage One

-the art (of course)  It begins outside the building, with the Impressive Hammering Man sculpture. In the foyer is the attention grabbing installation, Inopportune: Stage One by Cai Guo-Qiang.  It never ceases to amuse, thrill and entertain me.  All this wonderful art work, and you haven’t even paid for your ticket…..

reasonable membership rates   An annual membership (couple, or family, or individual) is under $100.

Perfectly garnished for the Miro exhibit!

Perfectly garnished for the Miro exhibit

the cafe   Taste features delicious food, and very good service, in an attractive room.

a gift shop (SAM Shop) AND a separate book shop (SAM Books)

Across the street from the SAM

Across the street from the SAM, viewed from Taste cafe

-location  It’s right downtown, with easy access for visitors, and, apparently, neighbours with a sense of humour

the name  Just like the WAG (Winnipeg Art Gallery) or the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art), SAM is a comfortably familiar name to toss around…..”Goin’ to the SAM”


*the short list (shortlist) inspired by Jian Ghomeshi in his memoir 1982


Joan Miro at the Seattle Art Museum

I finally made it to the Joan Miro exhibition, The Experience of Seeing, at the Seattle Art Museum.  Very soon after entering the gallery, I unexpectedly ran into a colleague, who remarked, “I am strangely moved by the show.”   She voiced my feelings exactly.  Maybe it’s being in the presence of genius that moves us?  (I don’t know, but I do know I felt the same way when I visited Monet’s home and gardens in France.  So much beauty….but that’s a blog for another time.)

The Experience of Seeing deals largely with the last two decades of Miro’s life.  The numerous sculptures were a highlight for me.  They are engaging, and often whimsical creations of ‘found’ objects that are then cast in bronze, using lost wax casting . I wasn’t the only one walking around with a smile on my face….and I’d bet the creators of ET were familiar with Miro’s works.