Visual Arts Picks

BAJA TO VANCOUVER

With the collapse and closure of the Bellevue Art Museum, the issue of balancing quality and popularity in museum programming again leaps to the fore. The blockbuster show opening at SAM this week is a perfect example of the delicate balance curators and directors must strike. "Baja to Vancouver: The West Coast and Contemporary Art" is clearly designed to target young, hip patrons in their twenties and thirties, which is not to say that SAM is panderingthere's interesting, challenging work here. But B2V limits its survey to representational art, which, though it makes a huge project more manageable for the curators, also seems like a way to make it more palatable. B2V includes a lot of photography and video and is heavily concerned with art's relation to the pop culture factories of the West Coast: film industry (Hollywood and Vancouver), various urban music scenes (Seattle and the Bay Area), fashion (Portland and Nike), and the porn industry (the San Fernando Valley). Among the few Seattle artists included is photographer Glenn Rudolph, whose 1976 shot (printed 20 years later) above is titled W.R. Duncan in His Garden, Seattle. Opening reception: 5:30 p.m.- midnight, Thurs. Oct. 9 featuring live music and other entertainment. Seattle Art Museum, 100 University St., 206-654-3100. ANDREW ENGELSON

GRAVE MATTERS

For all the death, destruction and mayhem pumped into our brains every day by the mass media, there's precious little talk about mortality. TV doesn't like to remind us of our impending doom, lest we turn off the set and actually do something productive. Not so in "Grave Matters," which brings together unapologetically morbid paintings and sculpture. Okay, there's a bit of Halloween hype going on here, but the art's all worth seeing, including Charles Krafft's "Ring of Spone" and other memento mori, which turn cremated remains into ceramic reliquaries. Also on view will be Kenny Montana's own casket stocked for the afterlife and Kris Kuski's gothic paintings inspired by his father's deathbed (The Great Passage is above); plus Wayne Martin Belger's pinhole cameras (including one incorporating a formaldehyde-pickled human heart). The exhibit's opening night party will be a "Fete Noir" complete with hearses, dark music, and icky snacks. Black clothing, fancy dress, or costume is mandatory for entrance. Reception: Fri. Oct. 10, 6 p.m.-10 p.m., Roq la Rue, 2316 Second Ave., 206-374-8977. Ends Fri. October 31. ANDREW ENGELSON

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