This summer the exhibitions at the Frye Art Museum are about contrast and evolution.
Your Feast Has Ended, featuring Seattle artists Maikoyo Alley-Barnes, Nicholas Galanin, and Nep Sidhu, contrasts the ancient and sacred with the new and revised. Meanwhile, The Unicorn Incorporated, is the first museum exhibition celebrating the evolution and career of Seattle artist Curtis R. Barnes.
The exhibits show the contrast between social commentary of the past and that of today, especially since Maikoyo Alley-Barnes is the son of Curtis R. Barnes.
“It was a two year conversation that led to these exhibitions,” said Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, the Director of the Frye Art Museum. “I’d been talking a lot with Maikoyo Alley-Barnes about which artists are included in narratives and those who generally are not. We wanted to address the latter. This art addresses issues of culture and history, and we wanted to make sure these artists were seen outside of racial categorization.”
Curtis R. Barnes has been an artist, illustrator, muralist, and community advocate in Seattle for the last 50 years. In the early 1970’s, Barnes helped create the famous Omowale mural in Seattle’s Central District. Despite protests and petitions, it was destroyed in 1995.
“We wanted to address the loss of that history in Seattle,” said Birnie Danzker. “Despite his constant lack of opportunity to show his work, he never stopped. He’s also like family to us, since he started his work as an eight-year-old who attended some children’s art classes at the Frye.”
Meanwhile, Your Feast Has Ended is modern, raw, brutal, and loud; a dedication to searing social commentary.
In one room, the pelt of a wolf stares you down, its back legs splayed and its front stuffed, seeming to crawl forward on its legs. The wolf’s face is yearning and haunting. Titled Inert, the work by Nicholas Galanin was originally conceived for a traveling exhibition that dealt with humanity’s impact on the environment.
“The inability to progress or move forward was the basic concept of Inert,” said Galanin about the piece. “It was created so that we could focus on those that are affected by society’s sprawl. The back half of this piece is contained, a captured trophy or rug to bring to the home, while the front continues to move. It is sad, and the struggle is evident.”
One of my favorite pieces of the exhibit is also a work by Galanin, titled Tsu Heidei Shugaxtutaan, Parts I and II. It’s a video and audio piece, projected in black and white onto an entire wall.
During the first part, dancer David Elsewhere uses modern break-dancing moves to accompany the traditional Tlingit entrance song. Next, dancer Dan Littlefield, in a traditional Raven Mask, dances to electronica. The contrast between old and new is stark, yet the feeling is simultaneously similar. The distance in time between the music and the dance moves seems to grow smaller the more you watch.
Admission to the Frye Art Museum is always free and there’s a convenient (and free!) parking lot across the street.
Frye Art Museum
704 Terry Avenue