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May 18, 2007
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Volume 35
Issue 20
 
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Bits & Bytes
New, expanded SAM triumphs in every detail, Portland hosts Rembrandt & Dutch Golden Age, Linda Davidson scores with Turn Of Mind show
By Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

The visual arts take the focus this week as Bits&Bytes takes loyal SGN readers on a quick written and visual tour of the triumphant new Seattle Art Museum downtown in the Emerald City, extends an invitation from the Portland Art Museum to attend the summer blockbuster, Rembrandt And The Golden Age of Dutch Painting, featuring painting and master prints by Rembrandt van Rijn, and makes a quick stop in Pioneer Square to welcome a new show, Turn Of Mind, at the Catherine Person Gallery. Read on:

NEW, EXPANDED SAM TRIUMPHS IN DETAIL, DIMENSION, DEPTH

As the new, expanded downtown Seattle Art Museum moves into its third weekend of record breaking attendance, it's clear to Emerald City art fans and fanatics that the new SAM is a triumph in every detail. Founded in 1933 in the classic Art Deco building in Volunteer Park, which now houses the Seattle Asian Art Museum, SAM is getting ready to celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2008. And what a celebration that will be. At the present, SAM bills itself as "one museum in three locations." With the new Olympic Sculpture Garden posed for spring and summer throngs, the beloved Volunteer Park SAAM and the triumphant downtown expansion, SAM looks like it's ready for another 75 or 100 years. To celebrate the 75th anniversary and the downtown museum's new expansion, a group of donors has just gifted SAM with nearly 1,000 works from 40 major Northwest collections. The inaugural exhibition for the new SAM's fourth floor exhibit space, SAM At 75: Building A Collection For Seattle, highlights 100 "of these extraordinary works" with another 125 pieces incorporated into the galleries housing the museum's permanent collections. Thus, a 3,000 year old Greek ceramic wine vessel is on display next to a 300 year old Wedgwood vase of similar shape. And these two priceless, historic objects are right across the aisle from a display of contemporary art glass by major Northwest glass artists-all pieces echoing each other. Everything about the new downtown expansion works-the light-filled galleries, the soaring ceilings in some spaces, the lower heights of some display areas, the beautiful Renaissance church works (one in its original frame, circa 1440), the incredible Porcelain Room which alone displays 1,000 pieces from SAM's extensive holdings in European and Asian porcelains. (The new museum has 2,400 items on exhibit-and 1,000 of these are in the Porcelain Room.) The museum considers itself "a collection of collections" and, as such, it succeeds in every department. Among other successes:

*The first two floors are open to the public completely free of charge. Inter-active art installations on the grand staircase of the museum's former main entrance, outside the "Hammering Man" sculpture, are great fun.

*For the museum's gala grand opening (or, reopening in this case), 33,000 visitors packed the museum during its unprecedented 35 continuous hours of free admission. Friends went at 3 a.m. and found the museum "full." Lines were long-averaging nearly 1,000 visitors an hour-but everyone seemed to have a good time.

*TASTE, the museum's new restaurant, with a second, outside entrance on lst Avenue for after-hours access, is another triumph. The daily happy hour is sure to become "the place to be" with its low-priced small plates and cocktail specials-"The Hammering Man" was a memorable treat at Bits&Bytes' table.

*The new, expanded gift shop is another "must see" on the first-or 50th-visit. SAM is justifiably proud of its "global perspective" with art works from 140 cultures on display in the new museum. The gift shop, formerly restricted (or so it seemed) to Northwest arts in general, now is like " a trip around the world," as one friend said.

*Upcoming major exhibits for the fourth floor area include Japan Envisions Of The West, Oct. 11-Jan. 6, 2008, and the first real blockbuster for the new SAM-Roman Art From the Louvre, opening Feb. 19, 2008.

SGN offers readers a quick visual tour of some of SAM's highlights-a feature called "Photo Page" is this scribe's youth or the "Rotogravure" even longer ago-but fondly remembered as a lyric in Irving Berlin's classic "Easter Parade."

PORTLAND ART MUSEUM READIES REMBRANDT EXHIBITION FOR JUNE 2

While the Seattle Art Museum celebrates its new expanded downtown anchor space, the Portland Art Museum is getting ready for its summer blockbuster show, Rembrandt And The Golden Age of Dutch Art. The show, one in a long series of blockbusters for PAM. The exhibit features 90 works from major Dutch artists with six oil paintings and eight master prints from Rembrandt van Rijn highlighting the show. A few Rembrandts have trickled into Northwest exhibitions in the past, but the 14 works on display in Portland probably represent the largest number even shown at one time in a Northwest institution. The exhibit continues through Sept. 16 in the downtown Portland museum. Bits&Bytes often makes a day trip to see the latest blockbuster at PAM-it's a quick morning drive down, two hours at the museum, a gourmet lunch and a evening return. Check it out. Details at 503 226-0973.

TURN OF MIND CONTINUES AT PERSON GALLERY

Talk about contrasts-the new SAM has 2,400 works on display, the Portland Rembrandt show features 90 painting and drawings and Turn Of Mind in Pioneer Square hosts just five works. But all are well worth seeing.

Artist Linda Davidson works on intimate but overscale "installations," as she terms them. More than 400 individual small works on wood comprise a major work. The single pieces are available for sale (with a minimum of two) or the whole work is priced as a unit. Some pieces are plain color, some are intricate designs, some impressionistic, some nearly realistic.

Davidson groups the individual works as she installs the major pieces. The keystone of the exhibit, the work can fascinate viewers for hours at a time or receive a quick once-over.

Another work features nine larger squares, each available as a single work or as a nine-piece work. A fascinating work is created on white typewriter paper with a standard, old fashioned typewriter. The individual pages are interesting, the overall work is fascinating. Installed so that each piece of paper is anchored at the top but hanging free at the bottom, the installation shifts in the air, constantly changing. One piece, a colorful abstract square, is framed in a heavy, ornate frame created for the single panel oil. "It just seemed right," Davidson laughed at her First Thursday opening.

Turn Of Mind continues at the Catherine Person Gallery in the Pioneer Square area through June 2. Details and exhibit times at 763-5565.

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