Beyond busy downtown Seattle and Portland Art Museums, many smaller museums and galleries thrive in the arts-minded Pacific Northwest. Look for several to be featured this year here at Pacific Northwest Seasons.
A treasure trove of contemporary art in Seattle sits perched on the western edge of the University of Washington campus, just below the UW's iconic sculpture of George (Washington) himself.
Originally a small brick box of a building that opened in 1927, in 1997 the Henry Art Gallery completed a major expansion that quadrupled the overall gallery space and created an amalgam of quasi Neo-Gothic and contemporary architecture. I think this juxtaposition of new and old is part of the Henry's unique appeal.
When I was studying art history at the UW, I used to love to wander into the Henry and browse the manageable-sized galleries. I don't know about you, but I get sensory overload in big museums (and big box stores for that matter). While the Henry now has more space to exhibit, it still feels intimate.
|The old (left) and the new (right) Henry Art Gallery buildings|
This rainy, cold January afternoon was perfect for getting a dose of art, so I drop by the Henry for the first time in a couple years. As usual I'm challenged, amused, and inspired by the art and installations there.
My first stop is, as always, the James Turrell Skyspace room (pictured at the top of this post and below). The first time I was here was for an intro to Zen meditation, and since then this space has hosted many more such events for quiet contemplation and perception-bending light displays.
Entry to this space is via the original entrance to the Henry, and I pass outside to reach this open-door, unheated room. It's about experiencing natural light and the elements, tweaked with a genius artist's touch.
|Looking at the original Henry entrance from Skyspace|
After sitting, absorbing the light, then taking photos, I sneak back into the warmth of the original main galleries.
Right now the feature exhibit, The Body Draws, is the first major American exhibition of avante garde German artist Franz Erhard Walther's work. His art is as much or more about the process than the finished product. So the exhibition features drawings, films, and fabric elements of his participatory events, of which there was one at the Henry earlier in the exhibition.
|Franz Erhard Walther installation|
As I stand and watch some of the films of the events, which are slow and deliberate, my natural impatience wells up until it gives way to the "being" of the artistic moment. Which is partly what his art is about.
Then I walk downstairs to the large lower level space, where a colorful exhibit by Californian artist Pae White is set up. I get so caught up in the sensory feast that I get reprimanded by a museum staffer who sees me walking into some of the display yarn on the floor, which I didn't notice. My bad.
|Pae White installation|
Then it's time for me to head back out into the damp January chill, where I enjoy the view outside the entrance back up campus to distinctly not contemporary Suzallo Library.
|View toward Red Square and Suzallo Library|
Like I said above: juxtapositions. I believe they make our lives richer and more interesting.
When You Go
The Franz Walther exhibition runs through March 6, 2016. The Pae White exhibit only runs through Sunday, January 24, 2016. Besides the art exhibits, the Henry offers a vibrant menu of events, ArtBreaks, film screenings, talks & performances, and ArtVentures (second Sunday of each month at 2 pm). Here are directions to the Henry and hours/admission. Like many museums, it's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. There used to be a cafe at the gallery, but right now it's not operating. The guy who took my admission said they are seeking a new vendor to operate the cafe, so hopefully this year.