Seattle's fall art scene delves into design

The Seattle Design Festival is ushering in a series of design-based art events around the Seattle area this fall. Kascha Semonovitch highlights what not to miss.

Crosscut archive image.

A 2009 Susie J. Lee show, Ghost Light, at the Moore Theatre.

The Seattle Design Festival is ushering in a series of design-based art events around the Seattle area this fall. Kascha Semonovitch highlights what not to miss.

This fall begins with a rise of design in Seattle. Several slated event series are blurring the lines between design, architecture, and visual art, inviting live interaction and conversation in a city better-known for its music scene. The crowd for Seattle Design Festival’s panel “Beyond Boundaries” overwhelmed the space at Fred’s Wildlife Refuge on Monday, a sign that the local community’s craving exceeds current offerings.

The panel featured a conversation between local design firm Lead Pencil Studio, LA-based Ball-Nogues Studio, and Phoenix-based Atherton | Keener about how they have used architectural techniques or perspectives to generate art work that interrogates the distinctions between art and architecture. Panelists considered how software could re-present overlooked urban features such as signage (in the case of Lead Pencil) or how architecture permanently changes our relationship to light (in the case of Atherton | Keener).

All of the firms have installed work visible in Seattle or the greater Puget sound area: Atherton | Keener’s “Buoyancy” is now on display downtown at Suyama Space (2324 Second Avenue); Ball-Nogues Studio is currently completing a public sculpture of sphere-packing near the highway in Edmonds. (The final project resembles their Santa Monica project “Cradle.”)

This Thursday evening the design festival continues as local architect, Artefact employee, and former Microsoft design director August de los Reyes presents his vision for twenty-first century design at the Seattle Art Museum. In his research and production, de los Reyes synthesizes fields as diverse as video gaming, critical theory, hardware-prototyping, and architecture to argue for a cross-disciplinary practice of design that is not limited by the contingencies of any one discipline.

On Friday, Saint Genet, a new experimental performance/visual art company, begins a series of four weekly Aesthetic Declarations at the Lawrimore Project, a gallery and aesthetic force in Seattle. Whether you subscribe to any of these manifestos, these events may be the time to familiarize yourself with the aesthetic forces at work in the Puget Sound.

These speakers only mark the beginning of design-meets-art offerings that will continue through the fall.

On Saturday, Lawrimore Project artist Susie J. Lee will combine live music, dance, technology, and installation in “Swimming the List” at the Theatre Off Jackson. This presentation will introduce viewers to the work that gained her her first museum solo exhibition, "Of Breath and Rain," which will be on view at the Frye Art Museum in February 2012. (Lee is also represented at Myers Contemporary, Baltimore, and Galleria Tiziana Di Caro, Salerno.)

In October, Rome-prize winning Meejin Yoon and her partner, Eric Howeler, will travel from MIT and Cambridge, MA to speak about their practice, which consistently merges art and design. Howeler and Yoon will speak October 14 at 6 pm in the Seattle Central Library Auditorium as part of Space.City's Expanding Practice Lecture series.

Broaching another edge of design, AIGA and Henry Art gallery will offer a unique perspective on the relation between design and editorial publication early October in “Read Me,” a panel discussion to accompany the exhibit “Read Me,” now on view at the gallery. Several editors of renowned publications will reflect on how they blend critical reflection with designed print or online presentations.

Each happening notably clouds the disciplinary boundaries between design and art: In each the creative energy of the artists demands a technical vocabulary drawn from a particular discipline or disciplines, but in the final project the work excels precisely because it does not limit itself to that discipline. These projects might be loosely collected under the term “visual” art, but in the sense that the artists have a “vision,” the articulation of that vision might require sound, movement, time, and dialogue to fully manifest.

No doubt, these events mark not the end of a list but the beginning of many more art and design events in the greater Seattle area.

If you go:

August de los Reyes at the Seattle Art Museum's Arnold Board Room, Downtown, Thursday, Sep 22, 6 - 8 pm.

Saint Genet at the former home of the Lawrimore Project, 831 Airport Way South, International District, Fridays, doors open at 6 pm, performance starts 9 pm, suggested donation $5-15; may not be suitable for those under 18.

Susie J. Lee's "Swimming the List" at the Theatre Off Jackson, 409 7th Ave S, International District, Friday, Sept 23rd & Saturday, Sep 24th at 8 pm, Sunday Sep 25th at 2 pm, $12 in advance, $15 at the door, students $10.

Meejin Yoon and Eric Howeler at the Seattle Central Library Auditorium, 1000 4th Ave, Downtown, Oct 14th at 6 pm, $10 on Brown Paper Tickets.   

"Read Me" at the Henry Art Gallery, 15th Ave NE & 41st St, University District, Thursday, Oct 6th, 7 - 8:30 pm, AIGA non-members: $12.50 in advance, $18 at the door.



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