Sunday, July 15, 2018

Seattle Art Fair at CenturyLink Center: Aug 3 - 5

In advance of the Seattle Art Fair's inaugural success, there was abundant speculation as to the nature of the exhibit local philanthropist Paul Allen and the organization he had assembled with Max Fishko of Art Market Productions, would be bringing to the city. At the time there was little that offered insight beyond the press release, which made it out to be half-commercial gallery, half-curated exhibition, featuring some 60 galleries representing local to international dealers and an emphasis on the West Coast and Pacific Rim. The majority of the dialog focused on the fair's relation to the art market, with Brian Boucher's "Why Are Gagosian, Pace, and Zwirner Signing On for the Seattle Art Fair?" and The Observer's "Paul Kasmin and Pace Gallery Join the Inaugural Seattle Art Fair" leading the discussion. With later pieces like Seattle Times "High Art Meets Deep Pockets at Seattle Art Fair", as well as the New York Times recap, "Seattle Art Fair Receives a Boost From Tech’s Big Spenders", and ArtNews "Why the Seattle Art Fair Is Important for the Art World", positioning the event in relationship to the moneyed local tech industry.

All of which were little more than discussions of the art market and the inclusion of some of the gallery world's international power players. For insight into the curatorial direction and work to be featured, one had to rely on regional media in which there was no small supply of skepticism expressed concerning the fair being another of Paul Allen's pet cultural projects, both for the good and the bad. The extent of the fair's scope became apparent opening weekend with favorable coverage in both the New York Times and Artforum. The exhibitions and galleries drawn from Asia were among the three day event's greater successes. In addition to the participating galleries Kaikai Kiki and Koki Arts from Tokyo, along with Gana Art of Seoul and Osage Gallery from Hong Kong, the "Thinking Currents" wing curated by Leeza Ahmady, director of Asia Contemporary Art Week produced a premier exhibition of video, film and sound work exploring themes related to the cultural, political, and geographical parameters of the Pacific Rim. With Kaikia KiKi head, Takashi Murakami returning for the fair's second installment, programming his own satellite exhibition "Juxtapoz x SuperFlat", for Pivot Art + Culture. As covered by Trinie Dalton in, "Pacific Objects", for Artforum, "Seattle Art Fair and Out of Sight made a Return" on the occasion of the fair's second year.

Art Fair's fourth installment the first weekend in August will feature an expanded body of galleries, more than 100 in total, along with it's program of talks, on-and-off site performances and collateral events around the city. These under the umbrella of the fair's Project series, presenting immersive and large-scale works spanning sculpture, performance, and installation. This year's Projects offering a platform for presentations beyond the art fair booth under the premise of "exploring identity, modes of play, and technology" in and around adjacent neighborhoods of the city. The series includes the presentation of a functioning satellite by Trevor Paglen, Anishinaabe artists Charlene Vickers and Maria Hupfield in a megaphone broadcasting performance, and Mark Pauline the founder of Survival Research Laboratories, joining influential science fiction author Bruce Sterling in conversation. The author and the outsider artist, technologist and robotics specialist have intersected on previous occasions, notably 20 years prior in the pages of Wired, for "Is Phoenix Burning?". Decades later, much of the contemporary SRL press focusing on the changed cultural and political landscape, and the difficulty of staging Pauline's elaborate, destructive spectacles. Indicative of The Verge's "Terrorism as Art: Mark Pauline's Dangerous Machines". Gone is the era in which the Bay Area was a countercultural hub, and institutions like SRL and RE/Search could easily secure inner city public space for performance. As a product, there's a logic at work that Pauline would now align himself with gallery culture, and the contextualized space of it's presentation. As Wired said, "artistic respectability doesn’t so much beckon as envelop", in response to The New York Times' "Fire-Breathing Robots Bringing Anarchy to a Chelsea Art Gallery".

Previous artistic director, Laura Fried, has been succeeded by Nato Thompson, supported by the core dealer committee of local gallerists, James Harris and Greg Kucera. For ArtNews, Thompson went on to explain the approach in his curatorial statement, that the fair “is a wild ecosystem of different approaches. We’ve got technology, we’ve got dystopia, there’s utopia, we have gender, we have indigenous culture, we have a certain kind of interest in historical conditions. There’s a lot of different through-lines of the project, and we’re very excited about it.” This year's national and international big gallery players are represented by New York's Lidia Andich of Gagosian Gallery, Robert Goff of David Zwirner, Galerie Lelong & Co and Adams and Ollman. Previously offering a regional mirror to the global expansiveness of Art Fair, Scott Lawrimore of Lawrimore Project, Bridge Productions, and Vital 5's highly qualitative Out of Sight exhibition will not be returning in 2018. Since 2015, this 22,000 square-foot survey of contemporary art read like a who's-who of the best work seen originating from the Pacific Northwest. Credited as the "The Real Seattle Art Fair is Out of Sight" in local press, this representation of work, "Out of Sight, Into Mind: Art on the Margins of the Seattle Art Fair", will be sorely missed. As a small consolation, Studio e has organized the group exhibit Studio e 1Room, running concurrent and adjacent to Art Fair. Featuring a cross-section of the regional talent and work that would otherwise have been showcased in the setting of Out of Sight.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Grand Illusion Cinema's "Summer of Celluloid": Jul 13 - Sept 6

Scarecrow Video's sister cinema, The Grand Illusion has seen a rise to prominence with the decimation of the independent Landmark chain and buyout or closing of other regional theaters. Writing for Seattle's arts weekly, Charles Mudede continues to assert the theater experience as a essential component of urban life, regardless of the leveling of the city's cinema-going opportunities. Framing the disappearance of much of the competition as an opening of the programming field, he proposes, "How Grand Illusion Became a Big Player in Seattle's Cinema Scene". In addition to the programming of an increasing array of genre film, American independent, and Asian and European arthouse directors, this small and long-running independent cinema has also preserved their ability to screen celluloid. Allowing for The Grand Illusion to team with their contemporary cinemahouse Northwest Film Forum for the annual presentation of the work of UCLA's Film & Television Archive, and their touring Festival of Preservation. As a repertory showcase, this festival of new prints on film has offered one of the country's most, "Fascinating Windows into Our Cinematic Past". Yet these opportunities, and the venues still able to screen film on celluloid are fast disappearing, accelerated by studio pressure and greater difficulty in maintaining hardware and acquisition of prints. All of which is detailed in LA Weekly's discussion of the expansive shift to digital distribution and projection nationwide, "Movie Studios are Forcing Hollywood to Abandon 35mm Film. But the Consequences of Going Digital are Vast, and Troubling".

So rejoice at this uncommon opportunity and the savvy programming Dan Hudson has brought to the city's longest running independent theater, with The Grand Illusion Cinema's Summer of Celluloid series. Beginning the two month program with a Steve McQueen double bill, Norman Jewison's highly stylized class conflict thriller, "The Thomas Crown Affair" and Peter Yates action-filled San Francisco detective procedural "Bullitt", will deliver a double punch of late 60s cool. The following weekend sees the director who exploited the richness of celluloid like no other. A double bill of Stanley Kubrick with his classic 1980 adaptation of Stephen King's "The Shining", and one of the most sumptuously shot films of it's decade, the 18th century exploration of decaying aristocracy, as political satire and class comedy, "Barry Lyndon". Meeting during the production of the latter, Leon Vitali continued to work for the director behind the scenes, taking on a array of roles in the following decades: casting director, acting coach, location scouter, sound engineer, color corrector, promoter, and eventually restorer of Kubrick’s films. His personal account of a life dedicated to the director's vision can be witnessed throughout "Filmworker", running concurrently the week of the two features.

Shifting gears, the following week showcases two espionage and action thrillers from the decades of the 1980s and celluloid's last era, that of the late 1990s. Featuring the cinematography of the late, great Robby Müller, William Friedkin's "To Live and Die in L.A." frames a deadly game of cat and mouse between William Petersen and Willem Dafoe in a raw tale of corruption and revenge. Much in the way of Yate's "Bullit" exploiting it's San Francisco setting for all it's worth, Friedkin utilizes the harsh synthetic environs of Los Angeles to choreograph one of greatest chase scenes dedicated to film in the 1980s. A decade later, John Frankenheimer would prove that he still had true grit late in his career with the sharp pacing, brilliant editing and high stakes of "Ronin"'s post-Cold War espionage thriller. Taking it's cues from heist and crime cinema of the mid-century, Frankenheimer brilliantly updates the European style and setting of the genre, with a great cast starring Robert De Niro, Stellan Skarsgard, Jonathan Pryce, and Jean Reno. Also in the way of 1980s action movies, we have a less po-faced set of genre pieces in Peter Hyams military industrial complex setting with Sean Connery as the film's space mining detective in "Outland", and Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes getting sci-fi macho ridiculous in "Demolition Man". But neither of these begin to touch the unbridled and limitless invention and absurdity of Lau Kar-leung. Much like his "The 36th Chamber of Shaolin", 1983's Shaw Brothers production of "The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter" promises elaborate setups and acrobatic, physics, (and reason), defying martial arts action.

Belatedly championed, and with numerous opportunities in the spotlight this year, Left Bank director Agnes Varda has had a wonderful year. Her Academy Award nominated "Visages Villages" received attention from all the right places, she was seen on the red carpet at Cannes for the Cate Blanchett-organized events of this year's festival, and she donned the cover of this summer's Sight & Sound in their feature on, "The Irrepressible Agnès Varda". Contributing even a little more to the year of esteem, her restored "One Sings, The Other Doesn't", is having a domestic theatrical run, landing at The Grand Illusion for a week. Swinging back into 1990s genre film, and a universe away from the New Wave's Left Bank, the Summer of Celluloid concludes with James Cameron's second installment in the then-groundbreaking Terminator franchise, "T2: Judgement Day". Closing out the series, and a little more measured than the 1991 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle, Renny Harlin's Samuel L. Jackson and Geena Davis-led urban thriller, "The Long Kiss Goodnight", watches as a satisfyingly slice of 1996 late-period-celluloid action noir.