Opening night at the Frye Museum – eye-opening elements in its new exhibits.

The Frye Museum, “which shall always be free”, opened their new exhibitions Friday night. It was a lovely evening and a gala night to get a sneak peek of the newly installed shows – all sorts of art people milling around, exhibitors present with family and friends; and, just to keep it in the spirit of the Frye tradition – the public! I loved the feel and energy of the crowd. Free parking as well.

The main exhibit CHRONICLES OF SOLITUDE: MASTERWORKS OF VILHELM HAMMERSHØI FROM SMK – THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF DENMARK celebrates the artist’s 100th anniversary of his death. He is described as “a master of atmospheric and psychological interiors…a modern Nordic Vermeer.”

While this might be a bit pretentious and over-stated I found the pieces in the exhibit wonderfully simple, engaging and Vermeer-like (very minus the copious photographic detail that he is famous for in his work). The play of light in Hammershøi’s stark and simple interiors, the enigmatic women figures and the soft color palette make them interesting to study. The interpretation of them is left to you as Hammershøi takes a very technical and dispassionate stance in his presentation. They certainly evoke the feeling of solitude and calm. Many are interiors of places he lived and his wife Ida Llsted is often his model.

There is a nice film on him, his work; and, how where he lived influenced his work included in the exhibit. It is interesting that he belonged to a group of painters who rebelled against the prescribed constraints of conventionally accepted art of his time and place. The Dutch Skagen Painters were much like the French Impressionists and their Salon des Refusès and the German Munich Secession painters all whom wanted to be free of the traditions that would make or break an artist of their day. The Munich Secession painters are represented in the Frye permanent collection making this an interesting juxtaposition of work.

THE FRYE COLLECTION is “restaged” and is always a pleasure to look at – each iteration of the hangings of these works brings new insights to the viewer. I never tire of it and I have been going since a child. And, those frames!

The INYE WOKOMA: THIS IS WHO WE ARE exhibit is “inspired by meditations on land and lineage.” This lifelong resident of Seattle’s Central Area recognizes the similar notions of gentrification going on there now and the displacement of the Ancestral Duwamish who once occupied the land on which he now lives. The exhibit has some thoughtful and beautiful photos with a naming exercise beside each that is thought provoking. His film project showing on two opposite walls is engaging if not easily accessible. It calls for some time to sit and watch and understand.

XU BING: DRAGON FLIES EYES (TRAILER) is “a work in progress…which will culminate in a full-length feature film (the first) by the well-known Chinese artist. “The film eschews camera operators and on-screen actors and instead employs publically available video surveillance footage.” It is interesting, disturbing and without cohesion at this point in time. The “this is your life” as viewed by the big-brother- omni-present surveillance cameras of today is a phenomenon that deserves our thought. The elements of what is deception are interesting inspired by the well circulated urban legend of a Chinese women who supposedly had plastic surgery to disguise her Asian features and was sued by her husband when they had an ugly child.

It is almost always a good bet to visit the Frye. And, the Gallery Café with its outdoor setting for the summer months is also a favorite of mine.

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