James Martin's Art: hanging out with Daumier at the circus after a few too many absinthes

First Thursday

James Martin

James Martin has been populating his lively gouache-on-brown-paper paintings with zany characters in odd burlesque circumstances for many years now from the "Donald Duck Ranch," his home in Edmonds. In "No Wooly Mammoths Here," the 78-year-old artist introduces marionettes into his tableaux like tiny alter egos or as belittling commentary on personal fortitude. Martin has always been a puppet master, but this time he's showing the strings. This solo show at Foster/White this month marks Martin's 20th anniversary with the gallery and is bound to be entertaining. While some of his early influences are still evident—the swirling colors and floating characters of Chagall, the playful humor and simplicity of Klee, as well as the work of Northwest masters Callahan, Tobey, and Graves—Martin's blend of satire and absurdity is all his own. With a regular repertoire of characters that includes clowns, angels, the Dalai Lama, various celebrities (some amusingly passé like Barbara Walters and Elton John), rubber chickens, mermaids, and a frequent chimp (with only a brief appearance by a mammoth), viewers of Martin's vivid vignettes will be forgiven for feeling like they've been hanging out with Daumier at the circus after a few too many absinthes. Foster/White Gallery, 220 Third Ave. S., 206-622-2833, First Thursday reception: 6–8 p.m. Gallery hours: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tues.–Sat. SUE PETERS

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