Review: Who knew? Paul Allen Collection does abstraction at Pivot Art + Culture

The Seattle gallery’s show “Color and Pattern” is a big departure from other, realism-dominated shows from Allen’s trove of artworks. You’ll see masters of the form, though, like Damien Hirst, Wassily Kandinsky and Frank Stella.

If the Allen Collection ever opens to the public as a stand-alone museum, it will be nothing if not diverse. The new exhibit, “Color and Pattern,” at the Pivot Art + Culture gallery in South Lake Union, is almost entirely composed of abstract art from Allen’s holdings, ranging from the colored stripes of Agnes Martin’s “Untitled” to the endless dots in Damien Hirst’s “Barium Carbonate-13C.” Considering that previous Allen Collection exhibits were dominated by realism, this array of often uncompromising, nonrepresentational art comes as something of a surprise.

The consistent high quality of the included works, and their wide variety of styles, makes for a lively exhibit, although with some maddening moments — a familiar mix when speaking of contemporary art. Viewers who are less familiar with, or comfortable with, abstraction will also find themselves challenged by several edgy, messy pieces by younger or lesser-known artists, here sitting cheek-by-jowl with modernist classics by masters like Mark Rothko, Wassily Kandinsky and Jasper Johns.

Squarely in the edgy/messy/maddening department are the seven 4-foot disks by Brazilian artist Guillermo Kuitca (“Diarios”), discarded paintings that he cut into circles to fit a studio tabletop, and then used as a writing surface to stream his very lively consciousness. Rather ugly from a distance — simple, brightly colored canvases that look highly scuffed — it is only on closer inspection that the scuff marks reveal the hundreds of sketches, notations, diagrams, and drawings laid atop the paintings. The random jottings have no relationship at all to what’s underneath, so that the…

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