Pouring paint into a hole in the ground? Madness! Cutting holes in the canvas—the precious, sacred canvas? Why, it's as if they're cutting holes in the history of art itself! Mockery comes pretty easily with something as silly as revolutionary destruction primly institutionalized behind "Do not touch" signs, but "Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949–78" turns out to be a lot more fun than its premise. This is partly because most of the artists seem to be more good-natured pranksters than self-serious rebels. Yves Klein points a flamethrower at his canvas like a crazed fireman-in-reverse in a 1961 photograph, Yayoi Kusama attaches polka dots to her cat in a 1967 film, and smart-ass extraordinaire Roy Lichtenstein punctures the Abstract Expressionists' reverence for spontaneous gesture with his 1965 Brushstroke print. Despite the show's conceptual bent, there's also plenty of work here with a direct visual appeal. Richard Jackson has recreated a spectacularly messy 1972 installation in which paint-laden canvases are smeared directly on the wall and attached in place, their backs to the viewer (see image above). And though Jasper Johns' famous targets may be dull and overly familiar in reproduction, the one on display here—with its poppy colors and rich, fresco-like texture—is both fabulous and unexpectedly somber. Apparently even wild-eyed radicals aren't averse to old-fashioned beauty.
Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Avenue, 654-3100, seattleartmuseum.org. Ends Sept. 7.-- Read more of David Stoesz's The Slutty Eye.