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Friday, April 12, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Artwork In April -- Seattle's Galleries Are Full Of Paintings, In A Wide Palette Of Styles

Seattle Times Art Critic

It's a good month for painting at Seattle art galleries, and one of the most welcome shows is Fay Jones' new work at Grover/Thurston Gallery.

With a career that has spanned some 30 years, Jones is one of Seattle's most enduring and appealing artists. She created one of the murals in the Westlake Center bus tunnel, and her big, figurative, dream-laden paintings end up in other public places, such as Nishino, the chic new Japanese restaurant in Madison Valley.

Jones' new work is full of the signatures that her fans and collectors look for. There are cartoony figures that resemble paper dolls. Sometimes she includes figures that look like morphs of animals and characters from Japanese and Chinese paintings. She outlines her people and animals in sumi ink, and they float around in the composition, sometimes defying gravity.

Her sailors are back, as are her bald ballerinas, along with numerous long-eared hares and donkeys. (Jones admits she has a fondness for donkeys and all the symbolism they've acquired in their long, symbiotic relationship with humankind.) Jones' casual mix of cultures, animals and humans has always given her work a timeless quality, as though the paintings are little stories that exist in dream time, and the new work is no exception. This is a show full of subtle wit and playful ironies, and it ought not to be missed.

Because of the sumi ink and the Asian look of some of her painted figures, people sometimes assume Jones is of Asian ancestry. She's not. But one of the region's most acclaimed Asian-American artists, Paul Horiuchi, is having a show this month. In celebration of Horiuchi's 90th birthday, the Gordon Woodside/John Braseth Gallery has mounted a retrospective that spans 40 years of Horiuchi's stellar career.

A Japanese immigrant who supported his family as an auto-body repairman until his mid-40s, Horiuchi, who had displayed remarkable artistic talent as a child in Japan, quickly became one of the region's most beloved and admired artists. His collage works, which incorporate torn bits of paper, calligraphy, antique Japanese prints and other mixed media, are in some of the world's most renowned private and public collections. Horiuchi was a friend of Mark Tobey, and the influence of Tobey's "white writing" is obvious in some of Horiuchi's work.

These days Horiuchi is not producing in the prolific manner he once did. But the show at Woodside/Braseth does include "Matsuri," a lovely collage with the look of a Japanese screen that Horiuchi created earlier this year. This is a museum-quality show and a much-deserved homage to one of the region's artistic legends.

Norman Lundin is also one of the area's veteran artists, and a master of realism. A longtime University of Washington painting professor, Lundin has a national reputation. His show of new interiors and landscapes at Francine Seders Gallery is, as usual, really about light. Lundin has said that in his precisely rendered, sparse rooms populated only by lone jars and tables, he really is painting the light, not the objects. Lundin can isolate tiny increments of illumination, and in the same way that Eskimos have hundreds of words for different types of snow, Lundin has a bottomless repertoire of painting and drawing skills to show light.

He's a Swede by ancestry, and his hardwood floors and empty rooms can't help but suggest the quiet, spare country houses of Ingmar Bergman films or Henrik Ibsen plays. New in this show are his combination landscapes and still-lifes. In these he paints lonely roadscapes in the background and formal still-life arrangements of jars and pitchers in the foreground.

There's more realism at Davidson Galleries, where pastel painter Susan Bennerstrom, one of the region's best landscape painters, has a new show of paintings inspired by the Washington Palouse. Bennerstrom's style has the robust, muscular vigor of the social realism of the 1930s. Her grand, sweeping vistas of cultivated fields suggest the rousing, patriotic lyrics to "America the Beautiful," and though there are no people in these paintings, you expect to see a big, strapping farmer jumping down from one of her tractors. Bennerstrom is a skillful painter, and anyone who's seen the Palouse in its golden autumnal glow will be drawn to this work.

Roger Jones' acrylic paintings at Linda Hodges Gallery are more romantic and delicate. Having grown up in the foothills of the Cascades, Jones has a talent for showing quiet details of landscapes, such as the tangled branches of a willow tree. Deborah DeWit Marchant's new pastels at Lisa Harris Gallery will also please those looking for figurative work with a springtime theme. Marchant paints pastoral scenes of people working in their vegetable gardens.

At Mia Gallery, Daniel Minter, an African-American artist known for his evocative wood-relief carvings, is having his third solo exhibit. Minter, a Georgia native who now makes his home in Seattle, several years ago illustrated a children's book about a traditional Southern folk tale. In his new acrylic-painted wood reliefs, he once again focuses on folklore, storytelling and the spiritual themes that relate to his life as an African American. His work is full of big, bold portraits of African Americans that resonate with untold stories.

One of the most riveting shows this month is the exhibit of Sally Mann's photography at Greg Kucera Gallery. Mann, a Virginia photographer, is controversial in some circles for her habit of photographing her children naked and in ways that some find sexually provocative. Those who follow photography, however, will not want to miss the show because Mann is one of the most discussed photographers on the contemporary scene.

Photography fans also should swing by the G. Gibson Gallery, where there is new work by landscape and architectural photographers Michael Kenn and Dick Arentz, and still-lifes by Ruth Bernhard. Bernhard is a California photographer now in her 90s, and her work resembles the eloquent black-and-white still-lifes of Imogen Cunningham.

There's always glass art on display somewhere in Seattle, and this month is no exception. At William Traver Gallery, Seattle artist Danny Perkins' new group of patchwork glass vessels is a reminder that glass doesn't have to be smooth and seamless to be breathtaking. Perkins has been making these big (sometimes 4 feet tall) glass vessels for some time now. Created through a complicated process that includes purposely cracking big slabs of glass and then reassembling and painting the shards, the glass sculptures look like gorgeous torches.

Also on display at William Traver is lampworked glass sculpture by Polish artist Anna Skibska. The delicate installation is called "Clouds," and, suspended by wires from the ceiling, it indeed suggests a poetic interpretation of clouds. Skibska created the work while in residence at Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle and will be in the area again this summer to work at Pilchuck Glass School. It would be nice to see a bigger installation of work by this artist, and perhaps her summer stay in Seattle will lead to a more ambitious project.

At Foster/White Gallery, glass artist Richard Royal has a new grouping of his trademark "spray series." The sculptures resemble two goblets joined base to base and supporting a bouquet of twirling, swirling, glass "sprays." The sprays have a botanical look, like delicate glass shoots bursting out of a springtime bulb. Also at Foster/White are new abstract paintings by veteran painter William Turner, whose vigorous, boldly colored canvases are gestural homages to abstract expressionism.

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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