Out of Sight’s Regional Riches

The extensive, locally focused alternative to the Seattle Art Fair is more than worth your while.

The second annual Seattle Art Fair opens this Thursday evening, and if you’re an art lover or even remotely curious, you need to get down to Pioneer Square to check it out. The ticketed main event inside CenturyLink Event Center includes booths from 84 national and international galleries, along with talks and interactive installations. But even if you don’t have the stamina for a big day at the Fair, there is plenty to see in the vicinity, much of which is free and open to the public.

One of the best things about art fairs is the way they inspire local dealers, performers, and artists to organize independent parties and projects, creating a burst of creativity throughout a city. During SAF 2015, by far, the most ambitious local production was Out of Sight. The brainchild of Greg Lundgren, the artist and entrepreneur worked with a team of curators and artists to turn the unused top floor of King Street Station into an arts exhibition space filled to the brim with works large and small. This year, the official fair and the satellite events are all looking even more polished, and that definitely includes Out of Sight.

Whereas the Seattle Art Fair gives audiences concentrated exposure to international art, Out of Sight presents works exclusively from the region. The artists are all professional, but most are not officially represented by a gallery and therefore would not be seen at a fair. This makes it a stellar companion to the official fair, and I recommend attending both.

Out of Sight’s curators are some of the most seasoned in the region. Sierra Stinson, the exhibition’s co-producer with Lundgren, is best known for her project Vignettes, which curates shows independently and in collaboration with galleries. The curatorial team also includes Minh Nguyen, program manager for The Seattle Architecture Foundation’s Youth and Families Program; dancer/choreographer/singer Molly Sides; Julia Fryett, founder of the Black Box Festival; and Beth Sellars, lead curator at Suyama Space.

Most of the artists come from Washington, but quite a few come from Oregon. That includes new-media artist Rick Silva (a personal favorite), who created an installation that proved too noisy for the indoor space. It will reside outside King Street Station, as a sort of unofficial mascot for the show. (As of this writing, I am not allowed to say what it is, but it’s pretty hilarious. Update: Organizers have decided to put Silva’s piece indoors after all.)

The northernmost artist included in the show is Sitka, Alaska-based Nicholas Galanin, whose work ought to be familiar to Seattle audiences. His deeply affecting taxidermied wolf sculpture is in the permanent collection of The Burke and was also featured in the Frye Museum’s stunning 2014 show, Your Feast Has Ended. A larger work of Galanin’s in a similar vein will be an eye-catching addition to Out of Sight.

Staging an exhibition with so many different styles and media can be difficult, especially when the space is so open. Audiences should not come expecting a cohesive narrative, but rather one to explore on their own terms. It is unusual to see didactic texts associated with works in an art fair, but this isn’t your typical fair, and the team is offering insights into the works (the artist’s background, snippets of their statements) to help newcomers get a foothold without dictating one way of viewing the works.

Mark Rathbun’s “Stall.” Photo by Beth Sellars

The range of media and ideas is extensive. Among the works: UW’s Poetic Operations Collaborative (POC) will show three ensembles of wearable art; Mark Mitchell will show soft sculpture, including silky sticks of dynamite and a lush, white wall hanging; Norie Sato will reprise a mixed-media piece from the ’70s with vibrating string tethered to a television set; Justin Duffus will display oil paintings of domestic interiors made dreamy and surreal (in the same vein as his recent show at Linda Hodges Gallery); photographer Margot Quan Knight completely fragments actual interiors through a tessellated mirror apparatus (also on display); Morgan Rosskopf paints pure, geometric abstractions in lines and dots on black backgrounds; Amanda Kirkhuff offers an intimidating portrait of Jody Lynn Bowman (acquitted in 2004 for shooting her boyfriend when she discovered him molesting her 3-year-old daughter); Cait Willis presents mixed-media paintings from her Catastrophe Museum series; and at the western edge of the space, Mario Lemafa assembles a display of various leis, an homage to his Hawaiian origins.

Nearly the entire perimeter of King Street Station’s upper floor is windowed, which is great for natural light, but also dictates that video art be shown in the more interior areas. That includes a small black-box theater with couch seating near the entrance, featuring the “Karaoking the Museum” video series by Weird Allan Kaprow. The western wall of the space’s central stairwell will be used for the projection of a new work by multidisciplinary artist DK Pan in collaboration with Abigail Swanson. In the lower level of the stairwell, Brent Watanabe will stream a feed of his Grand Theft Auto Deer Mod, which sends an invincible AI stag through the virtual world of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It’s a gloriously absurd spectacle (one that has gotten international attention and nearly a million views online).

And then there are the five large installations. A winding cloud of pipe cleaners by Gerri Sayler is visible as you enter the exhibition, but you have to look up to see Prentice Hale’s inverted pyramid hanging from the ceiling at the center of the space. At the center of the south end, a luminous tower of translucent paper by Gail Grinnell fans into the rafters. At the north end, a dense lattice by Mike Rathbun supports a monumental ring, all made of a light-colored wood. A fifth installation, by Lead Pencil Studios, was not yet assembled when I toured the space, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with. (Their permanent sculpture at the U.S./Canada border, non-sign II, is one of my favorite pieces of public art in the region.)

As if all that weren’t enough, there will be multiple performances in the exhibition space, including dance by Amy Johnson, AU Collective, Alice Gosti, and Callie Swedberg. Though Out of Sight will be on display on weekends through August 28, opening weekend is the prime time to partake of the programming in the space. This includes a printmaking workshop led by Portland-based artists Demian DineYazhi’ of arts collective R.I.S.E. (Radical Indigenous Survivance & Empowerment) and Tracy Schlapp of print studio Cumbersome Multiples. Participants pay a small fee and walk away with an original work of their own.

Bibliophiles have another reason to come on opening weekend, when Out of Sight presents Pressing Print, a pop-up library and bookstore, featuring small-run editions, independently published books, and art books printed in the Pacific Northwest. On the final day, August 28, it all concludes with a book sale.

That’s the short of it. You will have to come and explore for yourself to get the full picture … and maybe buy one, too. Out of Sight. King Street Station, 303 S. Jackson St., outofsight.space. Adults $10, children (under 13) and seniors (65+) free. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thurs., Aug. 6 – Sun., Aug. 28.