Comingled Encounters: Artist Relationships at SEASON
Artist Robert Yoder’s gallery, known simply as SEASON, resides on a wide thoroughfare between two north Seattle neighborhoods, somewhere between a deli and a city park. One of several residential spaces appearing in disparate corners of the post-recession city as other spaces downsized or faded away, SEASON fills not only a gap in available spaces for artists to show work but also creates a distinct venue for relationships between artists to manifest. - Erin Langner, Seattle Contributor
Robert Yoder. Untitled (Lukas). 2011, oil on panel, mylar, 25 x 19 inches. Copyright © 2012 Robert Yoder.
A practicing artist himself, Yoder’s personal home is the gallery, enabling a particular sense of comfort and confidence in his deliberate placements and pairings of largely emerging artists. This month’s SQUEEZE HARD (HOLD THAT THOUGHT) includes the illustrated fabric works of Seattle artist Allison Manch and paintings by New York’s Sharon Butler, comingled in small groupings throughout the living and dining rooms. Butler’s manipulated canvases extract and reconfigure abstracted elements of modernist sculpture from the National Gallery of Art, while Manch’s embroidered and watercolor works isolate well known symbols of the western desert in scenes that create the sense of a figure in search of its narrative. Simultaneously across town, Robert Yoder’s new oil and collage canvases, as well works on paper, comprise DILF!, the artist’s solo show at the more conventional Platform Gallery. I took this opportunity to discuss the relationships fostered by SEASON with Robert, Allison and Sharon.
Sharon Butler, Moondog, 2012, pigment, binder and pencil on raw canvas, 72 x 84.
Erin Langner: Allison and Sharon, did knowing these works would be shown in a residence impact the decisions you made in what to show?
Allison Manch: Yes. When I created work for SEASON, I knew I could make pieces that could be displayed in unexpected ways. My studio is in my apartment (my living room and sometimes my bedroom) so portability is always key to my practice. This translates to the work I made for SEASON since I wanted to make work that could be adaptable to different rooms or situations.
Sharon Butler: I had never been to SEASON when I agreed to do the show, but I knew it was in Robert's mid-century modern home, so I suspected there were lots of windows, an open floor plan, and relatively little wall space. I was working on large, unstretched paintings inspired by the mid-century sculpture by guys like David Smith, Tony Smith, and Mark Di Suvero, and the paintings could be draped anywhere, for instance, over a couch. The setting seemed perfect. I also included several small paintings that could be grouped in various ways and an unstretched tondo made of painters' tarp that I envisioned draped over a shower curtain pole, like a bathmat.
Allison Manch, Cave Creek, 2011, hand embroidery and acrylic on cotton with ink and natural dyes, 29 x 24.5 inches.
EL: What was the process for determining where in the house the two sets of works are located?
SB: I love the way Robert organized and hung the show. He draped my largest works over the fireplace and over a very low pedestal and then interspersed the smaller pieces with Allison's. Our work is rooted in kindred ideas, and we have a similar aesthetic, so looking at the individual pieces together creates an interesting conversation.
Robert Yoder: It may confuse people as to knowing who made what, but I prefer to mix the work by the artists within walls. I couple the artists in each show because I see some tenuous parallel between their work; then, I just let them make what they make. The show design fits with how I see these parallels. I'm always surprised at the deeper connections and associations that start to appear when the work arrives.
Sharon Butler, Staples, 2011, pigment and binder on canvas with graphite, 12 x 9.
EL: The highly textural quality of Sharon’s paintings and the painterly sensibility of Allison’s works makes the pairing appear so natural, it is very intriguing to hear that Sharon had never been to SEASON prior to agreeing to the show. Upon seeing the final hanging, were there new aspects of the work that resonated when seen together?
RY: Absolutely. So much of the work in the show is new, so I really relied on what I knew of their previous work when putting it together. For Allison, much of her earlier work was text-based although you could see the beginning of a move towards image-based embroideries. These new pieces are stunning in the way they evoke a sense of dry, arid desolation. They are physically small but their impact conveys tremendous space. For Sharon, I was mostly familiar with her smaller canvases that were these quirky abstractions, and I only knew of one really giant painting. Most of the work she sent is also mid-sized, and again, by abstracting these monumental sculptures, she shrunk the scale but increased the view. I remember laying out all the work when it arrived and thinking that they must have spoken with each other in the months leading up to the show.
SB: The primary attribute uniting our work is that we both craft carefully made objects that, in terms of their physical objectness, exude an aggressive nonchalance. Yes, at first glance, our work looks similar, but hanging it side-by-side also makes the differences more obvious. Where my paintings embody a Minimalist’s ennui, Allison’s embroideries manifest the raging torment of a jilted lover—a more Neo-Expressionist approach than Minimalist despite her spare use of materials. I’m energized seeing these paintings installed with Allison's embroideries—it’s like finding a treasure chest of new approaches and ideas.
AM: Sharon's work that I had seen previous to this show struck me as really fresh and inspiring, Her approach to materials encouraged me to take a lighter touch when I created new works for the show. When I saw the final installation, it was fun to experience the formal connections between our work. Robert’s work with SEASON is indispensible in that he is building a community and uniting ideas with a very wide scope. I agree it's really invigorating.
Allison Manch, Gimme Shelter, 2009, bleached and dyed quilt with hand embroidery, 51 x 55 inches.
EL: Robert, has showing and living with other artists’ works impacted your practice since you opened SEASON in 2010?
RY: Absolutely. At first, I knew it would be a way to stay actively involved with art in a different manner. What I didn't expect was how it would allow me to recognize ideas of my own that had be just below the surface-- ideas that were waiting to happen. I see a common theme in the work I show and I recognize that theme in my own work. I'm certain I'm playing off these ideas in ways I wasn't two years ago. Having the shows in the house makes me work harder; certainly I'm feeling competitive, but more importantly, I'm feeling like I have a place with like minded artists, both in Seattle and elsewhere.
Robert Yoder. Untitled (Brian). 2012, oil and acrylic on gatorboard, 22 x 20 inches. Copyright © 2012 Robert Yoder.
SQUEEZE HARD (HOLD THAT THOUGHT) featuring work by Sharon Butler and Allison Manch is on view at SEASON through June 30, 2012. Robert Yoder’s solo show DILF! is on view at Platform Gallery through June 16, 2012. Both galleries are located in Seattle, WA. Check out yesterday's blog post featuring a conversation with Robert and artist Ian Toms.
Erin Langner is a writer based in Seattle and is Manager of Adult Public Programs at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM)