There are various reasons to catch the unconventional art show at EMP: a peek into the vast, heretofore unseen, art collection of Paul Allen; a chance to see what a sly curator can do; an opportunity to observe some significant pieces of art, many of which haven't been viewed publicly in 50 years—or in the case of Brueghel the Younger, 150! And lastly, for a chance to make your own connections when you see, say, Monet's Rouen Cathedral (1894) study next to Jasper Johns' flat aluminum sculpture, Numbers (1978). It's not simply a matter of what the paired works say about artists' historical influence on each other, but what the artworks do to each other, that makes this exhibit interesting. The pairs work better than the larger groupings (as many as four)—which tend to degrade into a rudimentary exercise in comparison—how many different ways have artists painted Venice? More inspiring combinations are Rothko (Yellow Over Purple, 1956) and Signac (Concarneau. Morning Calm. Opus 219, 1891), which surprisingly share a color palette but which under scrutiny reassemble each other's structure: Rothko's abstract rectangular swatches assume a more solid presence, while Signac's detailed impressionist waterscape dissipates. You won't find Seurat's studied 19th-century pointillism next to Lichtenstein's 20th-century comic-book Benday dots; that's too easy. Instead curator Paul Hayes Tucker, a Monet scholar, matches Lichtenstein (The Kiss, 1962, pictured) with Renoir (La Liseuse, 1877) for the contrast between the two female subjects, one sitting alone in a parlor reading a novel, the other caught in the half-Nelson embrace of some heroic male stereotype. Who's more liberated here? Artists have been paired before—"Matisse Picasso" was a hot show at MOMA a few years ago—but not often across genres and generations like this. Any interpretations viewers derive themselves are perfectly valid, too, says
Paul Allen's rarefied art project sparks contrary opinions.
By Lynn Jacobson
Tucker. I wonder if that includes the observations of the toddler who sees the weird helmets on the sand-dune-climbing figures in Kenji Yanobe's extraterrestrial photo (Atom Suit: Project: Desert 1, 1998) and declares "Cow!" EMP, 325 Fifth Ave. N. (Seattle Center), 206-770-2702, www.doubletakeexhibit.org. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri.-Sat. $7-$8. Ends Sept. 24.