Friday, August 5, 2011

Seattle: Jason Larsen at Gallery4Culture, Renee Adams and Justin Gibbens at PUNCH

At Seattle's First Thursday last night, I talked to Jason Larsen about his meticulously crafted portraits, made with a precise yet lyrical woodcut technique on Shina, a fine-grained Japanese plywood, inked in black. Rather than printing from the wood surface, he presents the woodcut itself as the artwork. Larsen's work is so time-consuming that curator Esther Luttikuizen gave him latitude to present only these five exceptional, highly-detailed pieces.

Jason Larsen, First Mate, woodcut (Shina plywood, ink), 48" x 36".

I wish I had more images from PUNCH Gallery's current show, Peaceful Death & Pretty Flowers, by Renee Adams and Justin Gibbens. The Thorp, Washington couple has been keeping bees for years, and presents work by and about bees, including their accidentally mashed carcasses.  The image below is one of several "apologies" to the bees, made by Adams out of their flattened bodies.

Gibbens continues working in the style of 19th-century natural history paintings, including unsettling, myth-inspired images of an ox whose carcass mysteriously yields honey. He shows a different body of work at PUNCH than at his other gallery, G. Gibson – this current work is perhaps less marketable, but much more powerful.

Adams expands her flower imagery into collapsible and then-reconstructed sculptures that move like the wooden toy animals that fall down and pop up again when you push a button. The flowers and plants whimsically open and close, wilt and revive at the press of a switch on the bottom of the work. 

In the center of the gallery is a cast of a lion's skull that was installed in one of their beehives, allowing the bees to build honeycombs inside. It's titled "Out of the strong came forth sweetness", referring to the Biblical verse that describes Samson finding a beehive in a lion's carcass.

Both artists draw from "ancient myths and modern maladies of the hive."
Renee Adams,
Telling the Bees 1
4.5"x12", pressed flowers & bees on paper, 2011

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