Tack and Jibe: The Allure of Sea and Sail

Bounded by water on almost every shore, Seattle is a great place for sailing, even if the breezes run light on Lake Washington all summer. SAM salutes our maritime heritage with a back-corridor exhibition assembled from about two dozen items in its permanent collection: Tack and Jibe: The Allure of Sea and Sail. On view are the classic vintage sloop photos you’d expect from John S. Johnston, plus some Edward S. Curtis prints of Pacific Coast Indians in their canoes. But it’s not all musty old yacht club stuff. A younger Canadian artist, Shannon Oksanen, offers the lulling black-and-white loop video Little Boat (2007), in which duck-pond model ships tack and jibe—that is: turn across the wind with bow or stern—among the reed grass and waterfowl. Almost completely abstract, Ellsworth Kelly’s 1973 White Curve suggests full, billowing sails—or maybe just a slash of white. Closer to home, my favorite painting on view is from Seattle artist Malcolm Roberts (1913-1990). His 1936 View of Aurora Bridge is just that: a colorful nautical view of two sloops crossing beneath the moonlit bridge (then still new), the rest of Lake Union essentially left to the imagination, the surrounding city reduced to a few hues. Sailing should be simple, and this exhibition reflects its fundamentals. (Closed Mon.) BRIAN MILLER

Dec. 9-May 4, 10 a.m., 2008

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