Pieces from one of the largest collections of contemporary Northwest art has been made available to the public for the first time in “Curators’ Choices: The Greg Kucera & Larry Yocom Collection” at Washington State University’s Museum of Art.Kucera, a Seattle gallery owner, and his husband, Yocom, have built their private collection over the past 30 years. The exhibit is a widely varied “landscape” of artistic styles and themes that is dominated by Northwest artists, but includes international artists, self-made artists and erotica, including Japanese shunga woodblock prints.
As full and varied as it is, the exhibit features an estimated one-fifth of the entire collection from the couple’s Capitol Hill condo, a space smaller than the gallery itself. Ryan Hardesty, exhibit curator, explained that while not all of the pieces are typically in their living space at one time — some might be loaned out or temporarily held in storage — the closely arranged collection invites discovery.
That intimate, playful experience is intentionally emulated in the way the collection is displayed in the exhibit, Hardesty said. Massive canvases hang in expected places, but small, dimensional pieces are tucked into corners or placed low to the ground for the observant visitor.
“It’s a clean presentation, but there’s a playfulness to it,” said Zach Mazur, collection and education curator.
The collectors will be present for tonight’s public reception and will give a brief walk-through of the pieces on display. The exhibit will be up through March 25 and those interested may request a docent tour during gallery hours. These free tours, which generally last between 20 to 30 minutes, are designed not only to provide background information about the pieces on display, but they encourage visitors to develop their own response to the pieces.
Kucera has worked closely with the WSU Museum of Art for a number of years and agreed to exhibit a portion of the couple’s pieces; those that appear are a collaborative choice between them and the curatorial team at the museum. While various pieces have appeared individually in public exhibits, this is the first time a meaningful portion of their collection has been featured exclusively.
This exhibit contains some adult images and themes, primarily displayed discreetly in one corner of the museum.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: “Curators’ Choices: The Greg Kucera & Larry Yocom Collection”
WHEN: Opening reception 6 to 8 tonight; show runs through March 25. The gallery is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday; open until 7 p.m. Thursdays.
WHERE: Washington State University Museum of Art on Wilson Road across from Martin Stadium on the WSU campus
The following are a selection of noteworthy pieces currently in the Kucera Yocom exhibit, as identified by Ryan Hardesty, museum curator:
“Spider Home” by Louise Bourgeois (born 1911, Paris; died 2010, New York City), 2001, cast bronze, wood, paint
Perhaps the most highly valued piece in the exhibit, “Spider Home” picks up the spider motif that figured largely into the later work of Bourgeois, an “art giant” of the 20th century. Spiders may reference her own mother, a tapestry worker, but also motherhood, power and protection.
“Silver River” by Maya Lin (born 1959, Athens, Ohio; lives in New York City), 2006, cast silver
Lin, who designed the Vietnam Memorial, is recognized for her large-scale environmental installations, studio artworks, architectural projects and memorials. “Silver River” is a linear view of the Columbia River watershed. She is working on the Confluence Project, a series of installations and interpretive artworks along the Columbia River and its tributaries, including one along the Snake River at Chief Timothy Park.
“Untitled” by Tara Donovan (born 1969, New York City; lives in New York City), 2003 ink on foam core
One of the more prominent contemporary artists on the national scene, Donovan transforms found materials into new, natural forms with the idea that even things that are ready to be tossed away can be turned into something beautiful. Here, ink-laden bubbles have organically joined, clustered and ultimately burst to form an image suggestive of natural structures or patterns.
“From Then” by Jim Hodges (born 1957, Spokane; lives in New York City), c. 1980s, silver chain
Much of Hodges’ imagery comes from his upbringing in the Inland Northwest where he was surrounded by nature. Spider webs figure prominently into his work as Hodges explores the theme of industriousness within life’s inevitable fragility.
“The Simple Knotting” by Greg Blackstock (born 1946, Seattle; lives in Seattle), 2005, graphite, colored pencil on paper
Blackstock is among the self-made artists represented in the Kucera-Yocom collection, a group of non-traditional and self-trained individuals who instinctively tapped into their creative drive. Blackstock obsessively catalogues a wide range of subjects, including birds, tools and boats, as a means of understanding them. Blackstock has overcome many of the limitations of autism in his artistic inventory project he began in 1986.