ArtSEA: Seattle galleries kick off 2024 with bold strokes of color

Plus, how grunge is making a comeback in the new year and the legendary skateboarder who rode the Kingdome.

a very dark painting with thin wavy lines of color

“Good Water,” by Seattle artist Brian Sanchez, reveals the power of dynamic color pairing. (Winston Wächter)

Happy New Year! I trust you’ve spent the first 11 days wrapped in a blanket of “Peach Fuzz” (Pantone 13-1023), the 2024 Color of the Year.

Upon introducing the gentle hue, Pantone Color Institute’s executive director Leatrice Eiseman — who is based on Bainbridge Island — called it “a compassionate and nurturing soft peach shade conveying a heartfelt kindness … A warm and cozy shade that highlights our desire for togetherness and the feeling of sanctuary.” 

Let us turn to Peach Fuzz, then, when worrying about things such as who will lead the Seahawks (now that Pete Carroll has departed), or how to get your hands on a limited edition water bottle from Seattle-based Stanley (amid the viral craze). But I’m afraid the soothing tones of Peach Fuzz don’t stand a chance against the newly hatched fear of a fuselage popping open mid-flight. 

Better yet, paint your January in technicolor with the rainbow of new shows currently on view. 

You can start your hue cruise with Being (at Winston Wächter Gallery, through Feb. 24), where Seattle artist Brian Sanchez reveals the power of contrasting colors with his dynamic vinyl emulsion paintings. Jewel tones jostle against sharp slices of black in these abstract and intense works, which vibrate and hum and beckon you deeper inside.

Sofya Belinskaya’s watercolor “Liudmyla, Oleg, Yeva, and Olga.” (Gallery 4Culture)  

Continue your crash course in color in Pioneer Square, where Seattle-based Sofya Belinskaya presents Of Bread and Salt (at Gallery 4Culture through Jan. 25). With these evocative watercolors, the Ukrainian-American artist offers portraits of eight Ukrainian families who relocated to Seattle soon after Russia’s invasion of their home country. Based on (recorded and presented) conversations, the images appear afloat with memories, aided by an ombre wash of blues, greens, yellows and pinks. 

Nearby, Greg Kucera Gallery is hosting a show of drawings by the recently deceased Seattle artist Gregory Blackstock (through Feb. 10), whose work is forever as surprising and informative as it is thoughtfully colored. (See also this PBS short doc about Blackstock, by Northwest animator Drew Christie.)

The prolific autistic artist visually cataloged a huge variety of items, from Petosa accordions to beets to German shepherds to “The Great World Cockroaches” — the last portrayed in nuanced blacks and browns that encourage a scuttling appreciation for the insects. One of my favorites among these archival pigment prints is “The Artichokes, Complete Set,” which brings the thistle’s diversity alive in greens and purples.

At left, Marla Varner’s quilt “All the Colors in the Box.” (Northwind Art) At right, Jite Agbro’s “Disappearing.” (Patricia Rovzar Gallery)

At Patricia Rovzar Gallery Downtown, Seattle artist Jite Agbro presents Inbetweenness (through Jan. 27), a collection of large-scale encaustic collages that explore feelings of isolation within societal norms. Faceless figures stand out as stark silhouettes against backgrounds that look like strips of fabric drenched with dye. Agbro achieves her saturated colors with multiple layers of printmaking techniques, which give both the bodies and their environments a textural finish.

If Agbro’s work has you hankering for the slub and nap of textiles, head to Port Townsend, where Northwind Art is hosting Burst of Color (through Feb. 11), a vivid exhibit of 75 works by the Peninsula Fiber Artists collective. Included are some incredible quilts, such as “All the Colors in the Box,” a jaunty geometric piece by Sequim-based Marla Varner, and “Symphony with Black Holes,” by Port Hadlock’s Mary Tyler.

And a reminder: It’s your last chance to see Seattle Art Museum’s exhibit Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence (through Jan. 21), which showcases the work of Japanese woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai (I wrote about it back in October). Known best for his iconic “Great Wave,” Hokusai’s beautiful body of work serves as its own richly rewarding study in color theory.

A still from “Kingtom,” a new short doc about the Seattle skateboarder who rode the Kingdome. (Zack Rockstad/35th North)

My own entry into the new year has been peppered with reminders of Seattle’s colorful past. First came the news that The Rocket — the city’s once-indispensable free music weekly, in print from 1979-2000 — has been digitized and is available for browsing online via the Washington State Library (start time-traveling here). 

This yearslong effort was led by former Rocket editor and current music writer Charles R. Cross (who has contributed to Crosscut), whose encyclopedic knowledge of grunge history is now a bit more accessible. I’ve only just started digging into this essential cultural archive (and personal flashback), but from an old-school perspective I already appreciate that the interface feels akin to surfing through microfiche.

In other “back in the day” music news: On January 10, KEXP kicked off a new podcast, The Cobain 50. Based on a list Kurt Cobain famously scribbled in one of his journals, each episode will focus on the Nirvana front man’s “Top 50” albums and their influence on him and other music. Episodes will cover his connections with bands like the Pixies, Mudhoney and the Breeders, as well as less-expected list-makers like R.E.M. and the Beatles. 

If this sort of Seattle music history is your 2024 mood, check out local writer Shin Yu Pai’s newly released Historylink story on influential music space The Dutchman. Operational from 1982 until it burned down in 2009, the rehearsal and recording studio in SoDo hosted the likes of Mudhoney, Nirvana and Screaming Trees, and also helped foster the city’s early hip-hop and electronic scenes. 

I swear the next newsletter of the new year will look toward the future, but we’ll end this edition with one more dive into Seattle’s past: a short film about the time a legendary local skateboarder took to the roof of the Kingdome

Kingtom: A Tom Peha Story, released on YouTube on the first of the year, is a charmingly lo-fi 20-minute doc about a legendary event in Seattle underground history. When the Kingdome was closed in preparation for its March 2000 demolition (another major cultural event), a group of skaters plotted a way to sneak onto its enticingly scalloped roof — and Tom Peha attempted to ride it.

Longtime Seattleites (myself included) remember the jaw-dropping news reports from February 21, 2000. But this insiders’ recollection, told by fellow skaters and presented by local skate shop 35th North, reveals some fascinating details (disguise! subterfuge! unexpected slipperiness!). 

And if you find yourself inspired to embrace skateboarding in 2024, you can purchase a commemorative Kingtom deck featuring artwork by Zack Rockstad. Just don’t start eyeing the arcs over Lumen Field.

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