Tang Teaching Museum through the end of the year. Kiki Smith is by far the more famous and influential of the two; her show did not originate at the Tang, having been brought in from the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington in Seattle. Whiting Tennis, who hails from Seattle himself, is the subject of a Tang "Opener," whereby the museum's curators make a point of introducing an artist not previously broadly exposed in this area. So we have the known and the unknown side by side; the Seattle connection may be intended or not.
The installation of I Myself Have Seen It is highly structured, however (see view at the top of this post), prominently featuring a narrow ledge at the bottom edge of the gallery's walls that supports an array of countless 4x6-inch color prints in minimal plastic box-frames, running like a subtitled narrative below the entire text of the exhibition. On the walls are many larger, properly framed photographs, as well as the other works, in great big groups and sequences.
In contrast, Tennis, who has his own flirtation with deathly imagery in the form of gallows- or coffin-like forms, is like a breath of fresh air. Where Smith is grim, Tennis is playful. Where Smith seems to carry the scars of a brutal childhood, Tennis seems to be carrying on the joy of childish exploration. Like Smith, Tennis is comfortable working in a variety of media; unlike her, he seems to have mastered his techniques, whereas Smith appears to be locked in a never-ending struggle with them.
In another space, a large display of objects on shelves (shown at the bottom of this post) provides potential hours of perusal - there are 108 little sculptures in it, all around 6 inches tall, all handmade. It's an impressive display of ingenuity and skill, but also of freedom.
A lot of the work in Tennis's show is from the past year, showing an artist who seems to have really hit his stride; it's a pleasure to discover this work, which is exactly the experience intended by the Opener series.
Ratings: Smith - difficult to recommend; Tennis - Highly Recommended
5/29/16: Today’s Top Tips: Sunday
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