Art and Performance

The Best Art Shows in Seattle This Winter

Picks from Seattle Art and Performance
December 9, 2015

Find a complete list of art shows and events in Seattle this winter on our Things To Do calendar.

Jump to: Museums | Galleries | Art Events



recommendedHeikki Seppa (Through Feb 7): Heikki Seppa is a true master smith. Seppa's work varies in impression, from jewelry to sculpture to functional piece, and his simple mastery of the craft is unparalleled. He spent his last days in the Pacific Northwest and passed away in 2010. This exhibit is his "legacy collection." Don't miss it.


recommendedCamp Fires: The Queer Baroque of LĂ©opold L. Foulem, Paul Mathieu, and Richard Milette (Through Feb 14): Queer baroque work from francophone Canadian ceramic artists: LĂ©opold L. Foulem, Paul Mathieu, and Richard Milette. They have explored the idea of "camp" and the gay male experience in their work for the past 30 years.


recommendedGenius / 21 Century / Seattle (Through Jan 10): You may think that a teeny group of writers at The Stranger chooses the Genius Award winners every year, but that's not how it works. We put out three nominees in each of five categories: visual art, performance, literature, music, and film. Then every single person who's ever won a Genius Award votes on the winners. So the Frye's exhibition of more than 60 visual artists, filmmakers, fiction and nonfiction writers, graphic novelists, actors, set designers, directors, composers, musicians, choreographers, dancers, and organizations devoted to the arts in Seattle is actually a pretty good and epic survey of 21st-century art production in this city at this time. JG

recommendedCris Bruch: Others Who Were Here (Jan 30—Mar 27): Cris Bruch has been making and disseminating multimedia art in Seattle for more than 30 years, and like Buster Simpson, he only ever seems more radical. His forms can be abstract but they are motivated by basic human concerns, especially his experience observing the poverty around him in a rich city. This solo exhibition, titled Others Who Were Here and also including photographic works by the artist, promises to offer an experience specific to our time and place, and something that's closer to eternal, too. JG


recommendedPablo Helguera: Librería Donceles (Through Jan 3): Librería Donceles is actually a second-hand, Spanish-language bookstore that travels around the country, attempting to fill the void of bookstores that serve our country's Hispanic and Latino communities and create a dialogue about social equity. Seattle has no Spanish-language bookstore—until this one, inside the Henry. It's also a commentary on "the materiality of books" in the era of the Kindle.

recommendedPae White: Command-Shift-4 (Through Jan 24): Command-Shift-4, the keystroke sequence for capturing an image on a Mac computer, is the title of this enormous installation that you traverse with your body and your eyes, by LA-based artist Pae White. White drew long strands of multicolored acrylic yarn taut and attached them to spots on the floor, the ceiling, and the walls to create shapes that telescope into three dimensions. She painted "supergraphics" on the walls and the floor. Her inspiration was the Sea Ranch, an experimental 1960s housing development on the California coast where each structure was meant to have a site-specific relationship to the dramatic landscape. White's installation is like a "deconstructed textile," the museum explains helpfully—like a textile pulled apart to create a sculpture you walk through, which provides various views as if it were also a collection of snapshots like the historical images White collected on her computer when she designed the work. There's so much to see, and so little material used—the effects are entrancing. Be careful not to knock (accidentally but inevitably) into the yarn too hard. JG

recommendedFranz Erhard Walther: The Body Draws (Through Mar 6): This is the German artist's first major exhibition in the United States, and will examine the role that drawing played in his sculpture.


recommendedThe Atomic Frontier: Black Life in Hanford, WA (Through Mar 6): This photography exhibit explores black participation in the Manhattan Project at the Hanford Site, featuring declassified photographs from the United States War Department.

recommendedThe Harmon & Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper (Through Apr 17): It was the mid-1980s when Harriet and Harmon Kelley walked through the San Antonio Museum of Art to see the proud exhibition Hidden Heritage: Afro-American Art 1800-1950—and emerged ashamed. The shame came from the fact that they'd never heard of the artists. They started collecting works by African Americans immediately, and they kept on for decades. Now they have one of the world's best collections of African American art on paper, and 68 pieces ranging from the early days of the 20th century up through 2002 will be here, including familiar names (Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett) and plenty of names that should, and will after this, be more familiar. JG


recommendedSam Vernon (Through Mar 6): Vernon's black-and-white illustrations inhabit, in some way or another, the Olympic Sculpture Garden. Vernon's installation is centered on the pavilion—"drawings that defy immediate recognition, but resemble smoke, marble, webs, and fractured bits of textiles and characters waiting in the shadows and crevices of the building."


recommendedRebel, Rebel (Through Dec 13): Most of the pieces in this small show are part of a larger piece called Deed of Gift, which was a project by two local artists consisting of a gift of local art (other people's) to Seattle Art Museum. Did you follow that? Matthew Offenbacher and Jennifer Nemhauser took about $20,000, which he'd won in an art prize (the 2013 Neddy Award in Painting), and spent it buying art for SAM's permanent collection, from Ann Leda Shapiro's 1970s feminist drawings of hermaphrodites in space to Klara Glosova's large 2014 watercolor of parents on the sidelines of kid soccer games. See them together for the first time, with additional related works from the collection. JG

recommendedIntimate Impressionism from the National Gallery of Art (Through Jan 10): Sixty-eight paintings on tour from the National Gallery of Art represent both Impressionist and post-Impressionist masters including Degas, Monet, Renoir... you get the idea. What's different about this exhibition is that many of these paintings are small, domestic scenes, and a few of them are genuinely, wonderfully weird. Every desert-dry painting of his mother and his sister by Édouard Vuillard is downright strange. And Antoine Vollon's Mound of Butter? There is simply nothing like it: a 140-year-old cult painting of butter! JG

recommendedBrenna Youngblood: abstracted realities (Through Apr 17): Youngblood is the 2015 winner of the Gwendolyn Knight | Jacob Lawrence Prize, awarded by SAM biennially and curated by Sandra Jackson-Dumont, SAM's former education director (who is now head of education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York). In eight works in photo-based collage, painting, assemblage, and sculpture, Youngblood cleverly toys with abstraction and direct sociopolitical reference. She's dealing with what is unknown by using what is familiar—everyday objects, seductive washes of color, letters and numbers. JG

recommendedThe Duchamp Effect (Through Aug 14): A great little show from SAM's collection of work inspired by and peripherally related to the legendary readymade creator—the man who put the urinal in the art gallery. Whatever object he plucked out of the world to call art, he "created a new thought" for it, and that thought was the art as much as the object itself. His influence was immense. Artists here include Robert Morris, Robert Gober, and Sherrie Levine. The handformed Gober urinal is the most beautiful urinal the world has ever known. JG

recommendedKehinde Wiley: A New Republic (Feb 11—May 8): Kehinde Wiley has a strong take on appropriating and subverting the old masters. A New Republic comes to Seattle via Texas from the Brooklyn Museum, and delves deep into ideas about portraiture. By putting young, black men and women into the poses and styles of 18th-century European rulers and aristocrats, he makes deft observations about culture and presentation, as well as art and appropriation.

recommendedMartha Rosler: Below the Surface (Dec 12-Jul 4): Martha Rosler is Seattle's golden child after she was announced as the first winner of the New Foundation Seattle's 100K prize, and for good reason. Over the years, she has made statements that are at once political, social, and artistic, and she's tackled difficult subjects with a graceful power. This exhibit, presented in collaboration with the New Foundation Seattle, showcases the development of her project House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home over four decades.


recommendedParadox of Place: Contemporary Korean Art (Through Mar 13): To try to represent contemporary art in Korea with a single exhibition that includes only six artists would be absurd, so that is not the goal of this show—the first major exhibition of Korean contemporary art in Seattle in a decade. Rather, the focus is on the concept of paradox, referring to the split nature of the country, although it often emerges in the work less as paradox and more as plain old dualistic conflict. Jung Yeondoo photographs people first as they are, and then as they wish to be. Lim Minouk builds a faux television studio that's a phantasmagoric restaging of media coverage of the funerals of Kim Jong Il of North Korea and former president Park Jung-Hee of South Korea. Lee Yongbaek camouflages soldiers in heaps of flowers in his videos. And Noh Suntag installed himself on the border of North and South to photograph, in striking black-and-white images where nature and technology merge and mingle, a US military Radome, or radar dome, which sometimes, at night, looks like the moon itself. JG


recommendedArt AIDS America (Through Jan 10): Mark this. It's a bold, big group show meant to address how AIDS changed the course of American art, including 125 works by Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Gober, Catherine Opie, Jenny Holzer, Annie Leibovitz, Judy Chicago, Jasper Johns, Barbara Kruger, David Wojnarowicz, Andres Serrano, Martin Wong, Sue Coe, Karen Finley, General Idea, Nan Goldin, Jim Hodges, Peter Hujar, Kalup Linzy, Niki de Saint Phalle, fierce pussy, Gran Fury, Nayland Blake, Ross Bleckner, Scott Burton, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Charles LeDray, Glenn Ligon, Lari Pittman, and Paul Thek, plus many more. Look at that list! The show is curated by TAM's Rock Hushka and Jonathan D. Katz (Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture), and it's a decade in the making. It's already visited Los Angeles, and after this it will go to the Bronx, but it was organized right here in Tacoma, "the city that established the nation's first government-sanctioned needle exchange program," TAM director Stephanie Stebich points out. The art, in all manner of media, dates from 1981 to today. JG


recommendedConstructs: Installations by Asian Pacific American Women Artists (Through April 17): Among six new installations by artists who are Asian Pacific American women, two have locked-up interiors that beckon. Lynne Yamamoto's house made of white silk is doorless and windowless. You circle its sealed body, hoping it will reveal itself another way. In another room, Kaili Chun's small metal cages are double-locked, and you must unlock both (keys are given) to release the voices of birds and people and musical instruments recorded and just waiting to play from interior speakers. Each is a mysterious broadcast, and you can DJ by releasing more than one at a time. JG



recommendedJulia Freeman: Quiet Alter (Jan 9—Jan 30): For three years at NEPO 5K, Julia Freeman set up carnival-like booths that were systems of one-on-one interaction—but where the participants didn't face each other directly. The performers sat behind screens. One year, artist and audience member held hands and looked through peep holes into each other's eyes, then the audience member was rewarded with a photograph taken by the artist's father on a road trip. Another year, all you could see peeking out from the confessional-style window were women's hands, working on modest craft projects. For Quiet Alter, the gallery says that Freeman "confronts and indulges in the history of psychopharmacology, the pharmaceutical industry and their hidden but understood effects on our culture. As a way to expose the use and abuse of the industries and medications, Freeman uses collage, sculpture, video, a board game, and a written essay by Cristien Storm, to create an installation about how pharmaceuticals are quietly altering our world." Taking on the entire drug industry sounds heavy-handed, but Freeman's style is as light (in a good way) as a leaf. JG

recommendedMaggie Carson Romano: Well (Jan 9—Jan 30): Maggie Carson Romano is a delicate, poetic materialist. She used to live in Seattle, and, though she moved away a few years ago, she has kept her hand here, showing works at NEPO 5K and in other locations. This time she has a full solo show, about which the gallery says, delicately and poetically: "The benefits of erasure. Passing time's starring role in the process of healing and remembering and forgetting. The ebb and flow of losses and gains when wellness is no longer effortless. The tenderness required for extreme care." The show is curated by Vignettes. JG

recommendedDylan Neuwirth: Not a Hologram (Feb 4—Feb 27): Dylan Neuwirth, famous for his work in neon (but adept in text, sculpture, digital media and public art) presents a solo show at Glass Box.


recommendedRoger Shimomura: Great American Muse (Through Dec 24): Roger Shimomura's new show, Great American Muse, is the twelfth exhibition of his work by Greg Kucera Gallery. Shimomura has spent "a lifetime... juxtaposing images that reflect both mainstream and cultural values." He's been mining the events of his national past—our national past—particularly Pop Art, deep-seated racism, and his family's internment in the camps during World War II. In this new crop of crisp, bright paintings, Shimomura cuts apart and remixes Pop Art icons he was first introduced to as an undergrad in the 1960s. "While Pop was generally understood as cool and detached, I was interested in making it hot and relevant." His Pop burns. JG


recommendedMatika Wilbur: Project 562 (Through Jun 11): Natural Wanderment: Stewardship. Sovereignty. Sacredness. is a series by Matika Wilbur, based on her Project 562, which explores and documents the lives of Native Americans today. In portrait photos that are direct and clearly show the relationship between photographer and photographed, Wilbur has attempted to depict a kind of unity between the disparate groups of Native people that are spread over thousands of miles. She writes, "Where there is displacement from a homeland, there has come to be irrepressible yearning and struggle on all fronts for cultural wholeness and identity, as well as for communication and action about such crises." Melding these political/ideological goals with elements of photographic design, Wilbur's work somehow feels both provocative and natural, and will be worth the trip to Tulalip.


recommendedPop Up Pop In (Through Dec 19): A group show featuring works by Claire Cowie, Steve Davis, Jason Hirata, Alexander Kroll, Alleghany Meadows, Anthony Sonnenberg, Akio Takamori, and Bari Ziperstein.

recommendedBing Wright (Jan 7—Feb 13): New work by photographer Bing Wright, known for his images of sunsets reflected through shattered glass.

recommendedRoy Dowell & Xavier Toubes (Feb 18—Apr 2): Group show featuring multimedia artist Roy Dowell and ceramicist Xavier Toubes.


recommendedTurn (Through Jun 28): You've heard of an exquisite corpse drawing, probably, or if you haven't, you've probably still been part of making one in an art class at some point—it's a drawing where one person puts down a part, then the next person, without looking at the first, adds her own part, and on and on until the paper is filled with a segmented beast of a thing. Turn, this year-long collaborative series, is something like a sculptural exquisite corpse. It was artist Shaun Kardinal's idea, and he selected the participants. How it works is that a different artist takes a turn transforming a single piece each month. Stop by once a month to see the results of rebirths. JG


recommendedRemember to Come Back... (Through Dec 23): In the wispy drawings of ruby onyinyechi amanze, a Brooklyn-based Nigerian artist, human figures are in transit between the real world and the imagined ones, appearing between and before doorways, appearing partly in color and partly in pencil. Amanze is one of five artists included in the show about migration called Remember to Come Back.... Each artist is from somewhere in Africa and has an adopted home in the United States or Europe, and each considers the significance of departure, return, exile, assimilation, and refuge. The artists are amanze, Clay Apenouvon, Mwangi Hutter, DĂ©lio Jasse, and Zohra Opoku. Remember to Come Back... is aptly timed not only for the international news about migration and social transformation, but also for the American and European holiday seasons, when we all go home again in our own ways. JG


recommendedThe Figure in Process: de Kooning to Kapoor, 1955 - 2015 (Through Feb 28): On December 5, Seattle gained a new nonprofit arts center created by billionaire Paul Allen, the businessman and philanthropist who's also a major blue-chip art collector (and creator of Seattle Art Fair). The first exhibition, The Figure in Process, contains 20 works—a handful owned by Allen and the rest borrowed from around the world. Pivot head Ben Heywood commissioned eminent British curator David Anfam, a specialist in American abstract expressionism, to put together The Figure in Process, which features works by giants and lesser-knowns both. (Giants: Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, David Hockney, Willem de Kooning, Alberto Giacometti, Anish Kapoor.) Like the summer Art Fair, which drew 12,000 people, this will be a spectacle to watch for all kinds of reasons, from the purely artistic to the anthropological. JG


recommendedElectric Fields: 2015 Juried Exhibition (Through Dec 19): Punch Gallery's seventh juried group show, featuring works by a dozen West Coast artists selected by curator Julia Fryett from an application pool of more than 1,000, is remarkably strong and coherent. Eli Coplan deconstructs a typical computer monitor and reassembles it so the images become haunting afterimages. Juequian Fang's video, shot at IKEA, captures shoppers passing by a cabinet for sale where a woman's manicured feet peek out of the cabinet door, wriggling and massaging each other. Nobody tries to open the door, and an absurd sensuality maintains its presence in the cold retail zone. Joshua Noble designed The Bracket, an ankle bracelet/sculpture that gives you a shock when you stray from your wealth bracket. And what looks like a plain mirror by Anna Mlasowsky contains a hidden message activated by breath. The show is all about fields of energy, visible and not. JG


recommendedVeit Stratmann: The Seattle Floor (Through Dec 11): It's a work of art, but let's deal with it first as a floor. The floor is divided into parallel segments. They stretch from the door area of Suyama Space to the entrance of the Belltown architecture firm Suyama Peterson Deguchi at the back of the building. Each segment of floor is a strip of colored vinyl, in every color of the rainbow plus gray. To go forward, you choose a color. The artist, Veit Stratmann, describes his floor as a game where you discover the unwritten rules yourself. He also calls it "an awareness zone." You're aware because the zone forces you to make conscious choices continuously: which way, how many steps, what about that other person, how soon will we intersect if we keep on our current trajectories, et cetera. In political terms, The Seattle Floor is a sort of abstract-art version of a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote campaign. It's not tied to a candidate or a cause. It just wants to move you, and not in the arty emotional way. It's making a physical challenge that has to be translated intellectually. JG

recommendedJoan Tanner: The False Spectator (Jan 15—Apr 15): For many years, based in California, Joan Tanner has created structures out of discarded materials that have their own stories of destruction, decay, rebirth, and resemblance. At Suyama Space she'll respond directly to the dramatic room of the gallery with vertical structures: "troughs, columns and step constructs made of wood, sheet metal, plastic webbing, and a variety of other materials." That's not a very specific description, but based on her past work, this will be worth the visit. JG


recommendedAndrea Geyer: Travels on a Slender Thread (Through Jan 16): The New Foundation Seattle, led by Yoko Ott and Jessica Powers and founded by Shari Behnke, presents this exhibition of new and recent work by Andrea Geyer, curated by Kristan Kennedy—and naming these names is deliberate and noteworthy. Geyer, who is based in New York, has made it her practice to reclaim the histories, memories, and, yes, simply the names of the women behind modern art. She's done it at MoMA and the Whitney. Her Seattle exhibition Travels on a Slender Thread is comprised of three recent projects: a 16mm film transferred to video, five works on paper, and eight color photographs, based on research into Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney and the recent reopening of the Whitney Museum, marked by a huge new collection-focused exhibition of American art.


recommendedGo On, Take Everything (Dec 10): Vignettes celebrates their fifth anniversary with this group show featuring new work by Erin Frost, Leigh Riibe, MKNZ, and Sierra Stinson. This one-night-only event promises weighty, unapologetic sculpture and visual art. Bring your own champagne for their annual toast.


recommendedTrimpin: Hear We Are (Jan 20—Mar 5): Trimpin, famous local sound artist and sculptor, presents works at Winston Wachter Fine Art. For extra credit, read The Stranger's 2006 feature, "A Music Writer and an Art Critic Go Head-to-Head over Trimpin."

Art Events


recommendedCapitol Hill Art Walk (Every Second Thurs, 5–8 pm): The monthly art walk on Capitol Hill! Always worth checking out are: Blindfold Gallery, Photo Center NW, True Love Art Gallery, LTD. Gallery, Ghost Gallery, and, on the outskirts, the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park and Gage Academy next to St. Mark's Cathedral.


recommendedErika Dalya Massaquoi (Dec 12): The exhibition curator, educator, and entrepreneur leads this informal talk. She curated the Genius / 21 Century / Seattle show along with Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker and is a visual master in many fields.

recommendedC. Davida Ingram (Dec 17): C. Davida Ingram won the 2014 Stranger Genius Award in Visual Arts. As an artist she combines writing and curating to create "counter-narratives about Otherness and identity." She will give a talk about her work on view as part of the exhibition Genius / 21 Century / Seattle.


recommendedGeorgetown Art Attack (Every Second Sat, 6–9 pm): Once a month, the art that resides in the tiny airport hamlet of Georgetown ATTACKS all passersby. In more literal terms, it's the day of art openings and street wonderment.


recommendedBackstreet Bazaar (Every First Sun, 7–10 pm): On the first Sunday of every month, Hillman City Collaboratory throws a little street festival, featuring live music, food, and local artists.


recommendedFirst Thursday Art Walk (Every First Thurs): Exhibit openings, people watching, and (generally) free wine at the city's central and oldest art walk.


recommendedConversations with Curators: Crossed Paths with Chiyo Ishikawa (Dec 16): Chiyo Ishikawa is SAM's deputy director and the museum's curator of European Sculpture and Painting. She is also a terrific resource and a gem of a human. So you'd want to go to hear her talk even if her subject didn't sound interesting. But it does: "What were World War II's effects on works from the European collection?" Find out with Chiyo. JG


recommendedVermillion Makers Market (Every Second Sun, 1–6 pm): Enjoy live music and a full bar while you scope out beautiful paintings and jewelry from local artists and designers.