Visual Arts Picks


A self-described "collecting, hoarding, more-is-more kind of person," Jane Hammond transitioned from sculpture to painting 25 years ago in the belief that paintings could "hold more information." In her hands they certainly do. With a panoply of materials and techniques such as rubber stamps, collage, rubbings, and solvent transfers, her work swarms with human figures, animals and mementos of would-be mysticism garnered from a variety of sources—such as knot diagrams, magic tricks, and technical illustrations. Armed with scanner, Hammond creates "fiction out of fact," her collages densely packed with figures that jostle and shove one another in the quest for attention. Insects are merged, colors changed, wings affixed, species morphed into something fresh and unexpected. Hammond juxtaposes her visual sources with insight and humor: The Great Houdini appears in Scrapbook (Arles) in a well-known pose, leaning towards the viewer while weighted down with shackles, confined to the canvas. Frustratingly placed within arm's reach (if only paper Houdini could sprout hinged joints and stretch his enfeebled paper biceps...) is a set of keys. Gertrude Stein argued that sequence and causation are methods of imprisoning the mind; a better use of language, she suggested, was to bring things and people and words out of stale usage and into "the excitingness of pure being." In those terms, Hammond is an existential freedom fighter. Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 3rd Ave S., 206-624-0770, Tues.-Sat. 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Ends Sun. Feb. 29. SUZANNE BEAL


I'll admit I eavesdropped on the autistic "outsider" artist Gregory Blackstock at his opening reception. This was after I'd circled the gallery several times, enamored by the tidy rows and columns of his expressively drawn visual lists of related objects like tools, airplanes, shoes, and even wasps. The vivid inner logic of Blackstock's forms has something in common with the slanting, crystalline worlds of medieval illuminated manuscripts, as well as with Agnes Martin's obsessive graphite grids. I overheard his gleeful reply to a question about whether he had a favorite among his drawings. "Yes!" he exclaimed—it was his drawing of our state's "king-size" prisons and jails. A few days later, I stumbled upon this perfectly apt quote from art critic Rosalind Krauss: "The grid is...a prison in which the caged artist feels at liberty." Garde Rail Gallery, 4860 Rainier Avenue South, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wed.-Sat. ELISE RICHMAN

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