The title “Northwest master” usually gets pegged on dead artists, particularly ones associated with the so-called mystic painters and the kind of Asian and Native American-inflected regionalism they represent. But that is so last century!
It’s time to honor a new generation of living artists. In concurrent exhibitions at Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle artists Sherry Markovitz and Mark Calderon demonstrate once again that they have attained a level of excellence independent of any particular era, school, or geography. Individually, the shows are powerful. Together they offer a satisfying sense of artistic yin and yang. Markovitz’s work is voluptuously feminine, intricate, opulent, superbly detailed and colored. Calderon’s is stark, elegant, masculine. Both artists aim deep.
Wrapped in a floral patterned, beaded, fur-trimmed dress, so off-the-charts gorgeous it can make you weep, Markovitz’s 2010 mixed media sculpture Colcha is the kind of obsessively embellished figurative sculpture the artist is known for. In this show she presents a sophisticated group of paintings as well as a choice selection of beaded sculptures—ranging from the spare, almost baseball-simple White Head (with red line) to that exquisite shimmery Colcha, a 40-inch tall doll-figure with her to-die-for dress. Dolls are a prominent motif throughout. Implacable stand-ins for female children, to be dressed up, exhibited, and toyed with, the dolls or doll-like girls are painted on rectangles of cotton or silk stained with pale pigments, rippled and gently wrinkled as worn undergarments. There’s a disturbing current of sexuality to the work. Markovitz’s depictions of tangled groups of Mexican papier-mâché Lola dolls, with their splayed legs and empty faces manage to create unease without being explicit.
Calderon’s small exhibition in the back gallery, titled “Nothing is as Eloquent as Nothing” seems to approach the experience of loss and grief from multiple perspectives, each image reduced to its essence. One great appeal of Calderon is that he is able to work in minimalist and abstracted forms without losing the work’s profound sense of metaphor. The images resonate on several levels. You feel them. A fine example is the elegant 2013 wall sculpture Mudra, a kind of black hoodie with elongated arms crafted from black spine repair tape. It suggests an empty hoodie sweatshirt, a straight jacket, and also those awful hoods familiar from the Abu Ghraib torture photographs. In one simple form, the artist encapsulates an agony of loss, with hints of madness and torment, while also offering hope of redemption. The title, Mudra, references ritual hand movements of Hindu dance and yoga, and evokes the English word mother. Even the material Calderon chose, used for repairing books, suggests healing. It’s masterful work.
Sherry Markovitz and Mark Calderon
Thru June 29, Greg Kucera Gallery