On a cold, rainy Friday recently, I went around town to see what was new in the world of Tacoma Art. I made stops at University of Puget Sound’s Kittredge gallery to have a look at a freshly opened exhibit before heading downtown to make an appearance at Minka where I had a gander at the amazing things in stock at the art gallery/emporium of vintage and mid-century mod.
The show at Kittredge, “Terra et Sonus” (which translates to “Earth and Sounds”), is a two-person show featuring scientific art installations by Joel Ong and work by UPS ceramics assistant professor Chad Gunderson. The exhibit is more science fair than an art gallery show.
Ong’s work is incredibly dense and difficult to penetrate, but I get the sense that there are beautiful, fantastic ideas underneath his various installations. He plays with the alphabet of genetic sequencing to write random poetry. He contemplates the fantastic adventures of airborne, high altitude microbes. Out of the ether, he conjures a computerized cloud using sound emitting devices that stand on tripods. Most perplexing, perhaps, is a Plexiglas box on a pedestal. The condensation-fogged box contains a mound of earth that appears to have been inoculated with a lab-engineered culture of some kind. The intent is that the culture will grow out over the mound during the run of the exhibit.
Gunderson is a ceramicist who has taken the pot out of pottery and works exclusively with glazes. He casts abstract forms in glaze and exploits the bubbles and textures that result from the firing process. His forms resemble corals and primitive sea creatures, which Gunderson enhances with interesting color combinations in acrylic paint.
By doing two-dimensional depictions of his forms – as paintings on paper that are hung like scrolls – Gunderson goes full circle with his art, using his non-traditional ceramic sculptures as inspiration for works of art that feel at home in the art gallery setting.
“Terra et Sonus” runs through Dec. 8.
There is much to see in Minka, the long, soaring space located along Pacific Avenue and run by the dynamic duo of Lisa Kinoshita and Paula Shields. Minka shows work by a variety of local artists as well as studio art jewelry, interesting ceramics (much of it by Nicholas Nyland) and furnishings including sturdy, shaggy sheep made by Sonja Bergstrom, who recently moved to Vashon Island and uses only the soft, thick wool from the island sheep for these unique, fuzzy footstools. Asia Tail, a rising star in the art world, has some thick necklaces made of dense clusters of tiny beads. These reside in a case alongside some of Kinoshita’s unique jewelry designs. The latter are made with a combination of fine jewelry fixtures, raw minerals and materials from animals like horns. More unique fashion accessories by Snow Winters are also on display.
A self-confessed textile hoarder (like myself), Shields showed me a display of vintage Japanese folk textiles that she has collected and curated. Patched, worn and re-patched, these rectangles of precious cloth are prized in Japan and can date back more than a century. Such vintage fabric is still used by contemporary Japanese clothing designers. The display is called “A Culture of Boro and Mottainai.” “Boro” means tattered, broken or mended and “Mottainai” is an expression of regret that something is wasted.
Minka has high walls that make the space ideal for the display of large works of art like Lauren Boilini’s jungle series of paintings that were originally done for display in the Amazon headquarters in Seattle. These oil painting on paper show fighting roosters and wrestling monkeys executed in richly mixed colors that have a vintage wallpaper feel. Michael Kaniecki’s “Tsunami Coming” ink painting on paper is folded accordion style like a huge fan that forms a big wave across the front of the space.
Housed with Minka, like a nesting doll, is Art Above – a separate art gallery recently opened by former Tacoma mayor Brian Ebersole. Art Above is accessed via a narrow stairway that leads to an intimate show space.
Currently showing is “Roads and Rivers Unseen: Perspectives from Around the World,” which runs through Jan. 31. Ebersole is a painter, a collector and a dealer of fine art. “Roads and Rivers Unseen” includes a number of Ebersole’s impressionistic portraits and landscapes as well as vintage paintings from all over the world.
Ebersole pursued painting in his 20s. When he entered politics, he started collecting art during the course of his travels, some of which is on exhibit in this show. He has continued to acquire original art, some by artists he has discovered online. Today, he is immersing in painting again, which gives an interesting arc to his artistic development.
Minka and Art Above are located at 821 Pacific Ave. The space is open Thursday through Sunday from 12-5 p.m. and by appointment.
There is also a colorful and magical display of Mexican folk art animals on display in Art Above.