After visiting the new Benaroya Wing at Tacoma Art Museum for the second time, I wandered through the other galleries, which featured shows I had previously reviewed, and was delighted to see how much I enjoyed revisiting these shows. Which illustrates two important things about TAM: first, that exhibitions remain on view much longer than exhibitions in commercial galleries (a full year-and-a-half, for instance, for American Artists in the American West) and second, the tremendous variety of art on exhibit in multiple galleries guarantees you'll always find something to your liking no matter how your taste runs.
I admit to having biases. I was extremely skeptical when TAM opened the new wing featuring the Haub Family Collection of Western Art, and again when they opened the new Rebecca and Jack Benaroya Wing featuring glass art from Pilchuck. I was not anxious to see a bunch of cowboy-and-Indian art, and I figured Tacoma had quite enough glass art already, thank you very much. But I'm happy to say I've been pleasantly surprised by much of the art in both those wings.
Currently, one large gallery is devoted to the quiet, contemplative and structurally strong black-and-white landscape photography of Terry Toedemeier with photos of natural phenomena in, mostly, Oregon (and some in Washington). This show ends Feb. 17, so see it soon.
Not to be missed is "Current," a 30-foot long glass sculpture by Martin Blank, installed in the museum lobby during the run of the opening exhibition of the Benaroya Wing. Blank is the artist who created the "Fluent Steps" in the reflecting pool at the Museum of Glass. "Current" is a series of rough aquamarine slabs of glass mounted on and behind metal strips and standing wood beams. It represents the flowing waters of Puget Sound. It is monumental and stunning due to the sparkling color of the glass, strong material contrasts and sheer size.
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith is an internationally-known Native American artist whose work will be shown for three months beginning March 9. Her "In the Footsteps of My Ancestors" references traditional Native American art but is also as thoroughly modern as a painting can be, with drawing and mark-making that call to mind Jean-Michel Basquiat, Willem de Kooning and Fay Jones, with hints of early Jackson Pollock before he started dripping paint.
Just opened are Animals: Wild and Captured in Bronze and Immigrant Artists and the American West, both drawn from the Haub Family Collection; and coming soon is Native Portraiture: Power and Perception, an exhibition that counters romanticized and idealized portraits of Native Americans by presenting portraits of American Indians by American Indians, opening Feb 10. Also coming soon in the Haub Wing are Winter in the West and Places to Call Home: Settlements in the West, both opening Feb. 17.
Multiple visits to Tacoma Art Museum are definitely in order.
– Alec Clayton