Various Venues, Seattle

Art activity in Seattle is necessarily dominated by thought of the Seattle World’s Fair, but writing about the Fair two weeks before it opens is rather like writing about a wedding while the caterers and florists are unpacking their trucks. We know what is expected to happen, and what the visual ingredients will be, but the culminating flavor of all this emotion and planning is still to be determined The Fine Arts Pavilion of the Fair is a large, handsome building, designed by Paul Hayden Kirk. Its 40,000 square feet of air-conditioned, fire-proofed exhibition space soar without interruption to about the five-story level. A system of screens and baffles within it directs the traffic.

Norman Davis, Vice-president in charge of the Fine Art Exhibition, developed a committee of West Coast Museum Directors to advise him on use of this space. Their deliberations firmed into three shows which will run concurrently until Labor Day.

One is “Masterpieces of Art,” under the immediate supervision of Dr. William Milliken, recently retired Director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. For it, 62 superlative examples of painting and sculpture have been borrowed from leading museums of America, Europe and the Far East.

“Painting and Sculpture since 1950” takes up where the exhibition, “50 Years of Modern Art” at the Brussels’ World’s Fair, left off. Its international section is the responsibility of Dr. Wilhelm Sandberg of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The American portion is the responsibility of Dr. Sam Hunter of Brandeis University.

Items for the show, “Northwest Indian Art,” were selected by Dr. Erna Gunther, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Washington, from collections in Leningrad, Western Europe and Canada. (I have seen some of the Indian material, and it would be difficult to imagine more stunning proof of the expressive genius of the Northwest’s aboriginals. The other two shows are still very much under wraps at this writing.)

After Labor Day, the “Masterpieces of Art” will be returned to their lenders, and replaced by an exhibition of contemporary Northwest painting, and sculpture, under the direction of Millard Rogers and the Seattle Art Museum. Companion to the Northwest show will be an exhibition of contemporary crafts, the responsibility of Gervais Reed of the Henry Gallery.

A small side gallery in the Fine Arts Pavilion will house a display of rarities from the Seattle Art Museum’s Oriental collection, and the Museum’s collection of paintings by Mark Tobey.

Since Northwest artists are represented during the peak summer months of the Fair by a dozen works commissioned by Seattle donors as permanent features of the Civic Center, intense local interest is directed toward them. Few are in place at this moment, and I’ve only visited two studios to see works in progress. In both, however, what I saw was triumphant. Kenneth Callahan’s magnificent vertical mural for the lobby of the Playhouse, (also a Kirk-designed building) in itself justifies the Fair. The tons of bronze James FitzGerald cast into a fountain for the courtyard of the Playhouse seem sketched in place as lightly as if they were painted on the air.

FitzGerald’s wife, Margaret Tomkins, had her painting “White on Umber”purchased for the balcony of the Playhouse. It received honors at the 46th Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists at the Seattle Art Museum last fall. Philip McCracken’s “Caged Bird,” mounted high on a wall of the Playhouse, was exhibited in a “Young Americans” sculpture show in Paris last year. The suave “new” acoustically perfect Opera House, was converted with unbelievable ingenuity by architects James Chiarelli and Marcus Priteca from the old, echoing Civic Auditorium. Commissioned enrichment for it includes metal screens by Harold Balazs, an oil-on-mahogany mural by Guy Anderson, a metal-sculpture ballet group by Ray Jensen, chandeliers by Irene McGowan and eventually, a foyer mural by Mark Tobey.

Elsewhere on the Fair Grounds, fountains by Everett DuPen and Tom Hardy, and an immense mosaic mural by Paul Horiuchi, are permanent installations. So, too, is the great electronic marvel, known a the “International Fountain.” Its design was arrived at through an international competition, and money for it provided by the Seattle City Light and City Water departments.

For the duration of the Fair, an invitational exhibition of fine crafts, sponsored by the Northwest Designer Craftsmen, will be found in the Interior Design Pavilion. A long wall in the “food circus” will support a succession of northwest painting shows, coordinated by Fay Chong, Seattle artist and teacher. A sculpture court has been commissioned by the Seattle First National Bank, with members of the Washington Institute of Sculpture asked to provide 15 pieces in competition for a purchase prize offered by the Bank.

On the University of Washington campus, the 10th Annual Northwest Craftsmen’s Exhibition will be at the Henry Gallery until the middle of June. To mark the first decade of this influential show, award-winning pieces from former years have been installed in the long rear gallery.

As a counter to the vigorous expressionism which predominates in ceramics at the Northwest Craftsmen’s Exhibition, a group of local professional potters are showing, well-behaved wares at the Woodside Gallery until the middle of May. Walls above the pots are devoted to fantastic pastel paintings by Doris Thoams, whose husband Joseph Petta exhibited similarly fantastic collages at the same gallery in February.

PANACA, in Bellevue, is pre-eminent among ambitious galleries which have sprung up in Seattle’s suburbs and surrounding towns. Six months into its venture of selling choice one-of-a-kind, handmade objects by award-winning Northwest craftsmen, PANACA inaugurated its garden court this month with a show of ceramics by Robert Sperry, and prints by Danny Pierce, nationally acclaimed printmaker who left the Seattle area two years ago to become artist in residence at the University of Alaska.

Also east of the Lake, The Cellar Gallery in Kirkland is expanding to incorporate the turn-of-the-Century Peter Kirk Building as an art center. Bothell boasts an “Art Stable” at the old Sunny Heights Boys’ Ranch.

The Bainbridge Island Arts and Crafts Shop at the Ferry Dock in Winslow, is a veteran of five successful years. This spring it opened the first year-round, fine arts gallery to serve the Olympic Peninsula, featuring sculpture, pottery and painting by Northwestern Washington artists. A second Olympic Peninsula Gallery, operated by Mrs. Harry Johnson in Port Townsend, has just opened in her agreeably restored Victorian mansion.

This initial letter perforce ignores the majority of galleries in Seattle itself, but visitors to the city during May are urged to consult listings in the daily papers for news of current shows. Everett, Tacoma, Yakima and Spokane also have several galleries apiece, where work by local artists can be seen. Subsequent letters will deal with specific shows.

Anne G. Todd