SAM Remix remixed | Art of Asia

Friday night's SAM Remix was epic. Truly an impressive feat of bringing out lots of Seattle folks who might not ordinarily come to the museum and not only that, but dressed up and ready to party arty.

From the line of young women waiting to get hennaed by a lovely Indian artist to a reading of Seateeth, a novel by Jose Bold (aka John Osebold, part of a luscious pair of events organized by Amanda Manitach and Jennifer Borges-Foster) in the porcelain room, a very funny art tour by Nancy Guppy and Joe Guppy, and a Bollywood-Thriller-rave at the end that filled the lobby with dancing bodies in sequins and Halloween getups, the place was hopping.

I was amazed at how much I was able to really look at the art between events. But things were timed with enough space that one could wander and get absorbed and still have time to get to the next performance.

I love when my art expectations are surprised. This time there are two exhibits I'm not prepared for: Mika Tajima's After the Martini Shot, a stunning installation of industrial and theatrical elements, and the Art of Asia, which takes me quite off-guard.

Museum-goers in Seattle including me have seen most of the pieces before, since they belong to the Asian Art Museum's collection. Yet here is Japanese art historian Catherine Roche, curating the work in such a way it feels as if someone is whispering to me, showing me her personal favorite objects. It feels amazingly, wonderfully private.

For me this experience happens in the midst of the Remix crowd against the drama of Do Ho Suh's Gate, a stone doorway fashioned of fabric and projected onto in a day/night sequence of trees, a building, sun, a deer walking, a butterfly towing text, and then a black calligraphic blot that explodes into crows that burst and flap blackening the scrim.

That's when I walk through, looking up, surrounded by recorded squawks and shadowy cinematic flutter and feeling curiously as if I'm ghost-traveling, remembering a place I've never been.

Through the Gate the iconic black and gold crow screen referenced by Do Ho Suh spreads and before it, Captain Dirty Bear (Anthony Sonnenberg) has made his choice. His black and gold sentinels stand guard as he of bulk and bearskin prostrates himself before the screen, then squats to Sharpie in bubble letters on gold paper a shaman's question which he solemnly sticks to the floor with shamanistic blue tape. He hoists himself to his feet and heaves a sigh, then shrugging his heavy fur cape over his shoulders ponders on, carrying all the weight of art's mysteries.

I turn. A deep plum robe, splayed to the hem with wrists whipped into dangerous apostrophes; the embroidered wheels of another repeating on a gold field but in colors that never repeat; two cotton wraps patched and pieced, one blue on blue, the other gold on white, sheer and humbler than the heavy silks yet confident as Gee's Bend quilts, speak silently to each other across the spacious rooms. 

Bridging another span of culture and geography, pale green Chinese porcelain vessels send love notes to the jade handles of Indian daggers.

In a display of blue-and-white Chinese porcelain, the plates seem chosen for their appealingly modern animal glyphs that flatly decorate the ceramic surface then nudge surprisingly forward in pictorial space. A hare flies for all the world like a cool cartoon inexplicably over waves, dashed in motionless motion.

In my mind these objects flicker with ideas and artistic possibility and mesh with the web underlying what I think of as my thoughts. I can feel their textured connections. This doesn't always happen and it feels like a sort of spell. The bear! It must have been the bear...

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SAM's Art of Asia