Last summer, with art galleries tentatively and cautiously reopening their doors to in-person visits after months of pandemic closure, 40 of them banded together for the Seattle Deconstructed Art Fair (SDAF). Basically, they just held shows and had a centralized website. As I wrote then, it was a savvy piece of branding more than a proper fair—a way to say we’re still here, a way to impose unity in a time of solitude and diffusion. “If anything, that showed that we have a community of galleries right here,” says Judith Rinehart, owner of Pioneer Square’s J. Rinehart Gallery. “Like, Seattle is an art city.”
So this year, with the actual Seattle Art Fair still on hiatus until next July, galleries decided to do it again. There are now 52 galleries participating, from Pioneer Square mainstays such as Greg Kucera Gallery and Martyr Sauce to Capitol Hill’s Julian Peña Gallery to Columbia City Gallery to Kirkland’s Ryan James Fine Arts to a couple spots up in Edison, Washington. My favorite part of the fair remains its easily navigable website, where you can browse the galleries by virtual map and see what they’re showing. This year you can also pick up a physical map.
SDAF 2021 runs from August 5 to 31 and includes a calendar of events in addition to galleries’ standard operating hours—largely opening receptions, closing receptions, and artist meet and greets. The fair’s official kickoff in Pioneer Square and downtown from 6–8pm on August 5 will also mark the first proper First Thursday Art Walk after 16 months of absence, the longest break in the event’s 35 years. A few other galleries have tested the art walk waters, says Phen Huang, director of Foster/White Gallery and one of the SDAF organizers. But “as a full community, this is the launch.”
The return also celebrates something rather remarkable. In a year in which pandemic closures tore through other sectors of the economy, “we didn't lose a single gallery in the pandemic,” says Rinehart, also an SDAF organizer. “Nobody closed because of Covid.” Instead, several new galleries have opened. Pioneer Square brought in Figure Ground Art Gallery (and the excellent Martyr Sauce expansion, MS PAM), while Capitol Hill got a trio: From Typhoon, Julian Peña Gallery, and AMcE Creative Arts.
Here’s a glimpse of a few SDAF shows I’m excited about:
The explosively colorful painted collages at this new gallery take many forms. Some fit in frames, but the installation Icarus spreads across an entire wall in shapes that evoke flight and dance. They aren’t typically naturalistic, but Pearce's works do seem born of nature—especially, when you step close, the fascinating growth in a petri dish. AMcE Creative Arts
After not showing work for more than 20 years, this longtime local printmaker has reemerged with a show of tiny, careful etchings and collages. Ranging from figural nudes to abstracts, each hazy frame appears as glimpse into a past that’s either fading, or remerging—a fitting start for From Typhoon, which recently opened in Chophouse Row and focuses on showing work by artists who are queer, femme, and BIPOC. From Typhoon
Susanna Bluhm’s lushly colored paintings (see top of page) will give way, on August 14, to this show of fluidly geometric works from Bontrager and Brown. J. Rinehart Gallery
One of four artists showing at Wa Na Wari, German aims to create a “living poem” by sitting across from one audience member at a time in her installation WE. That might bring to mind Marina Abramović’s 2010 stint at MoMA, but German’s aims are different. Here the pair might talk, and attendees are asked to bring objects from their lives—broken jewelry, clothing, etc.—to contribute to the installation. Wa Na Wari
In the gallery, longtime local artist David Bailin will display a survey of his drawings, which with their smoky apocalypticism feel eerily pertinent (see especially works from his Fire Cycle). Online, the gallery’s new artist Taj Matumbi shows mythically colorful paintings. Koplin Del Rio