About the Exhibition

Image of text link to full accessible pdf

PHOTOGRAPHS FROM AMERICA

SELECTIONS FROM THE COLLECTIONS 
OF 
SEAFIRST BANK
MICROSOFT CORPORATION 
THE WASHINGTON ART CONSORTIUM

THE WESTERN GALLERY
WESTERN WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON 

MAY 8 - JUNE 7, 1996

PHOTOGRAPHS FROM AMERICA

THE COLLECTIONS

First in the Northwest: The Seafirst Corporate Art Collection

In 1967 Seafirst took a bold step in the philanthropic tradition: the bank inaugurated the first major corporate collection in the Northwest. In its first acquisitions Seafirst made a commitment to a high standard of artistic excellence in the work place. While a well-defined corporate collection, the individual art works also have become an important resource for the community.

The initial purchases for the Seafirst Collection (1967-69, 226 American works, 1/3 by Northwest artists) were made by an advisory committee. Representing the bank at that time were two officers active in the Seattle arts community, CEO William Jenkins and Vice President Robert M. Arnold. As a private collector and founding member of the Seattle Art Museum's Contemporary Art Council, Arnold sought additional expert advice from the community, such as Virginia Wright, internationally known art collector and Northwest patron, and Charles Cowles, founder of Artforum magazine (Los Angeles and New York).

In 1978 the bank hired Lawney Reyes as the arts administrator. With his background as a visual artist and a member of the Seattle Arts Commission and Governor's Art Task Force, Reyes was able to further the bank's high standards in collection management and to establish a budget based on the state's then new One Percent for Art program. During his six year tenure, he increased the number of Northwest art works and added historical and contemporary Native American art to the collection. During the early eighties the bank's board considered its economic challenges and decided to strengthen the regional collection, particularly emphasizing the burgeoning Pilchuck Glass School. They hired Wayne Anderson, a Boston art consultant and historian, to help refine the collection and to facilitate its move to its new site at the Seafirst Columbia Center.

A complicated but significant moment for the collection occurred in 1992 when Seafirst Bank and Security Pacific Bank merged. In fact, since Security Pacific Bank had already merged with Rainier Bank, the Seafirst Collection was actually enlarged twofold. About ninety percent of the Security Pacific-Rainier Bank Collection stemmed from Rainier Bank's enlightened move to collect in the early seventies. While art works from Security Pacific banks around Washington state came into the Seafirst collection, probably Security Pacific's greatest contribution was its non-profit exhibition space in downtown Seattle. Today, the Seafirst Gallery in Columbia Center (opened 1993) continues this legacy of working in partnership with the arts community. Peggy Weiss, former member of the staff of the King County Arts Commission, is the Director of the Seafirst Gallery; she also acts as the arts administrator of the now enlarged Seafirst Corporate Art Collection.

Even with its mergers and consolidations, the Seafirst Corporate Art Collection continues to represent exemplary regional, national, international artists in painting, prints and drawings, and sculpture. Within the larger collection, there are important areas, such as Northwest art, Asian porcelain, Native American basketry, and the media of textiles, glass, and contemporary photography.

Featured in this exhibition is the Seafirst Photography Collection with both historic and contemporary images. The strength of this collection is its emphasis on some of the great American masters across a period of eighty years. A large portion of this selection came from a portfolio of 20th Century American Photographs (115 photographs) curated by David Mendoza, arts consultant, in 1979 with works acquired subsequently by Seafirst Bank during the eighties. Much of this important archive has never been publicly exhibited.

 

Unique to the Nation: The Washington Art Consortium

The term "consortium" originally referred to a combination of banks brought into being to effect some financial operation too large for one institution to carry out. In a similar manner, the Washington Art Consortium is a unique partnership of institutions who have agreed to work together to further the cultural enrichment of this state and to familiarize Washington citizens with the highest standards of contemporary works of art on paper (prints, photographs, drawings).

The initial idea of a consortium began with the Virginia Wright Foundation, whose purpose was to acquire works of art for the state of Washington. In 1973 the Virginia Wright Foundation had started to collect modern American art on paper. To facilitate the goal of traveling the works around the state, the members of the foundation met with representatives of the National Endowment for the Arts to request assistance in funding the project. During the meeting, the two NEA representatives, David Ryan and Richard Koshalek, suggested a plan which would make the request acceptable to the Endowment guidelines: a consortium of museums, each having an undivided interest in the collection and sharing responsibilities of ownership.

In 1975 the Washington Art Consortium was organized by four institutions: Western Gallery, WWU; Museum of Art, WSU, Pullman; the Tacoma Art Museum; and the Cheney Cowles Museum, Spokane. Later, the Henry Gallery at the University of Washington, the Whatcom Museum of History and Art and the Seattle Art Museum joined this unique partnership. The Consortium, the first organization of its type in the nation, agreed to work together to acquire two major collections by important American artists of this century.

The first collection focused on Works on Paper: American Art 1945- 1975. The Virginia Wright Foundation work d with the highly regarded New York art dealer Richard Bellamy to make the selections of prints and drawings by 52 modern American masters which were presented to the Consortium members. Funding, in part, was matched by the NEA. While this collection is co-owned by the seven institutions, it is under the curatorial management of the Western Gallery.

The Consortium soon recognized the additional need for the development of a collection of post-World War II American photography. By 1978 the Consortium had put together a collection featuring the decade of the seventies and containing some of the period's most noted photographers. Working with funds from the Virginia Wright Foundation, the NEA, and private donations, the Consortium members asked the assistance of Rod Slemmons, then curator at the Whatcom Museum of History and Art, and Terry Toedtemeier, an Oregon based photographer and now curator of photography at the Portland Art Museum. The two curators submitted 725 photographs to the Consortium members for screening; along with the guest curators, the members chose 133 photographs {including 1 portfolio) by 32 artists. This co-owned photography collection is under the curatorial management of the Whatcom Museum of History and Art.

 

The Signs of Our Time: The Microsoft Corporate Art Collection

In 1987 the Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, began to form its collection featuring a wide range of work in all media from regional and national artists. While the factor of investment is present in any collection, the idea for "art on the walls" at Microsoft stemmed from an employee, not from the CEO. Microsoft's firm intent is to enhance the work place of approximately 9,000 employees located on a campus of 50 buildings.

Today, the collection contains 1,700 works which are spread through the buildings, work spaces {9 x 12 ft.), corridors, atriums, bathrooms, and kitchens. The primary focus is contemporary art from the Northwest with strong representation also from other parts of the United States and Canada. The Pacific Rim is represented through a collection of Japanese prints. The photography collection alone numbers well over 350 prints representing 75 artists. While some early masters are represented, the strength of the photography collection is in the work from the eighties to the present decade with many photographers often based on the west coast.

The Microsoft Art Collection Committee is chaired by the Senior

Vice President for Law and Corporate Affairs, William H. Neukom; the seven employees and the chair work closely with the Seattle based art consultant, Marjorie Aronson. The committee uses several processes and/or steps for selection: slide review assembled by the professional art advisor; whole committee visitation to local galleries, Artfair Seattle, and occasionally major cities as Chicago or New York; exhibitions of proposed works in the corridors; receipt of e-mail opinions from co-workers; final voting strictly left to the committee with a 4 out of 7 count. For example, the committee recently presented an exhibition of 531 prints with the intention of purchasing approximately one-third to one-half. Deborah Paine is Microsoft's art administrator who cares for the collection in terms of registration, documentation, placement, loan policies and public relations.

 

THE EXHIBITION

 

The Western Gallery was a founding member of the Washington Art Consortium. We, similar to Seafirst Bank, Microsoft Corporation and the Washington Art Consortium all share in the dedication to the cultural life of our communities· and of our state. Whereas Microsoft's regional thrust in collecting has literally enlivened the Northwest marketplace, Seafirst's and the Consortium's emphasis has been on education through touring exhibitions.

The idea for this exhibition began when the Director of the Western Gallery approached Peggy Weiss, Director of the Seafirst Gallery, about the possibility of featuring an aspect of the Seafirst Corporate Art Collection. Seafirst was already developing the idea for a touring exhibition of their photography collection and had just hired Rod Slemmons, former curator at the Seattle Art Museum, to select the works for "Pictures by Legends." With the initial purpose of highlighting aspects of collecting, the Director of the Western Gallery contacted Deborah Paine, arts administrator at Microsoft, to discuss the possibility of loans of contemporary works. Finally, the Director of the Western Gallery decided to use selections from the Washington Art Consortium Collection to provide another mode of collecting and to amplify the transition from the historic to the contemporary photographs.

Here in the Western Gallery, three important photography collections in the Northwest come together for a presentation of 100 years of American photography. The Seafirst Corporate Art Collection provides the historic base for this exhibition. Their collection can be divided into several areas: (1) historical documentation: for example, stages of development of the western frontier through both Laton Huffman's and Edward Curtis' portraits of Native Americans, and Huffman's and Darius Kinsey's images of the cattle and timber industry; or aspects of the African-American culture of Harlem during the twenties in the photographs of James Van Der Zee. (2) pictorialist photography where images were made to promote the medium as an art form versus document; for example, the soft-focused, atmospheric prints of Alvin Coburn, Gertrude Kasebier, Edward Steichen (early work) and even Brassai in the forties. (3) early Modernism promoting an unmanipulated art form: for example, the early prints of Paul Strand, Imogen Cunningham during the late twenties, and Ansel Adams and Minor White from the thirties through the sixties. (4) social documentation where images were made to prompt change: for example, Lewis Hine's efforts towards child labor reform in the early part of this century, the Farm Security Administration's program to call attention to poverty during the Depression era (Jack Delano, Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, and Ben Shahn) and Helen Levitt's portrayal of children on the streets of New York in the forties. (5) late Modernism: for example, where images are technically manipulated for artist's concerns, as in the work of Wynn Bullock and Richard Margolis; or, where photographers artistically expanded the traditions of photojournalism and fashion photography, such as the night people of Weegee or the performers, models, and celebrities of Barbara Morgan, Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon and Deborah Turbeville.

Whereas the Seafirst Collection provides a wide range of work over a period of eighty years, the Consortium Collection focuses exclusively on the decade of the seventies. This was a period when photography began to heighten the idea of artistic strategies, also common among painters and sculptors. While knowledgeable of the earlier documentary tradition, Robert Cummings, Les Krims and Duane Michels create personal and imaginary sequences of events for the contemporary spectator to witness. Different from the soft-focused society portraits of the early decades, Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon literally confront us with their vulnerable subjects in sharply-lit and stark poses. The social commentary of the thirties is diffused through the group portraits of Garry Winogrand or through the similar behavior of both the photographer and subject in the portfolio of Larry Clark. Even within formalism there are variations, from Lewis Baltz's abstraction of industrial sites to the imposition of John Pfahl's grids and Robert Heinecken's split screens, and to multiple manipulations in and on Thomas Barrow's, Paul Berger's, John Divola's and Bruce Patterson's images. In the group of topographies, Robert Adams, for example, de-emphasizes sublimity, as in Ansel Adams' scenic west, and approaches the unending view of minimalism.

Although approximately one-tenth of the photographers in the Microsoft Collection predate the decades of the eighties and nineties, the Director of the Western Gallery selected contemporary artists to accent the final decade of our century of photography. The Microsoft Collection is well known for its commitment to the placement of regional photographers in a broad context. Its eclecticism is due to the committee's openness to a wide variety of contemporary operational modes and subjects. The collection's remarkable images have given the final shape to this exhibition. Within the general categories of landscape, fragments of nature, the urban environment, labor and industry, festivals of life, the family, individual and group portraits, and general fantasies, the Director of the Western Gallery has been able to juxtapose image sometimes with startling results: for example, Microsoft's image Mark Abrahamson of a electromagnetic tree farm compared with Dari Kinsey's logging scenes; Microsoft's images by Arthur S. Aubrey a by Michael Kenna of industrial plants, tanks, and waste gas burne versus Lewis Hine's heroic worker on the Empire State Building the thirties; Microsoft's image by John Stamets of "ta passengers" with Weegee's "saturday night" revelers; Microsoft computer generated image of petroglyphs by Lorna Jordan and t large scale color work of rocks by David Robbins in contrast to t black and white images of grand mountains by Ansel Adam Microsoft's image of southwest tract houses under the red, perhatomic, sky by Patrick Nagatani next to the image of a tradition pueblo by Michael Burns.

With these three collections, the history of photography - bo masters and techniques - can be told. However, the Western Galle exhibition has been selected and purposely arranged to emphasize both the special character of each photograph and the changing nature of America. The intertextuality of these images reinfor and revise each other across a century. Finally, in guaranteeing the future viability and vitality of the visual arts, we are pro to celebrate the community spirit of Seafirst Bank, Microsoft Corporation and the Washington Art Consortium.

 

  • Sarah Clark-Langager, Ph D. Director, Western Gallery

 

SELECTIONS from THE SEAFIRST CORPORATE ART COLLECTION

The medium is gelatin silver print unless specified.

 

Mark Aalfs Window, 1975

Ansel Adams (1902-1984) Frozen Lake and Cliffs, 1932

Ansel Adams Moon and Half Dome, 1960

Ansel Adams Tenaya Lake. Yosemite National Park. California, 1946

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) Lady at Masked Ball with Two Roses on Her Dress. New York, 1967

Richard Avedon (b. 1923) Groucho Marx, 1972

Brassai (b. 1899) Morris Graves in His Home. Chartres. France, 1948

Wynn Bullock (1902-1975) Worm Design (Hieroglyphs}, 1951

Marsha Burns (b. 1945) Corridor Triptych, 1976

Michael Burns (b. 1942) Nambe Pueblo. New Mexico, 1976

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932) Temple of Toko-Fuii. Japan, 1976

Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966) Rodin, 1908 photogravure print on tissue, camera Work #21:11

Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) Two Callas, 1929

Imogen Cunningham Two Leaves, ca. 1920

Edwards. Curtis (1868-1955) Wife of Modoc Henry. Klamatta, 1923 photogravure print on Van Gelder paper

Jack Delano (b. 1914) Seated Couple, 1936

Jack Delano Untitled {White House}, 1936

Jack Delano Untitled {Woman Ironing}. 1936

Jack Delano Untitled {Woman with Hoe}. 1936

Robert Di Franco Untitled, 1977

Walker Evans (1903-1975) Attie May Burroughs. Wife of Sharecropper. Hale County. Alabama 1936/71

Walker Evans Washroom of Burrough's Home. Hale County. Alabama, 1936/71·

E. J. Hamacher studio Railroad Bridge. Ellensburg. Washington, c. 1900 albumen cabinet card

Wilhelm Hester (active Seattle-Tacoma, 1893-1915) crew of Duquesne. Nantes. France, ca. 1905 vintage albumen print

Lewis Hine (1874-1940) Workman Building the Empire State Building. 1931 vintage photograph

Lewis Hine Steel Worker on Empire State Building, ca. 1930 vintage gelatin silver print

Lewis Hine Stringing Milk Tags. Hartford. Connecticut, 1909 vintage gelatin silver print

Laton A. Huffman {1854-1931) Mrs. Bad Gun. Cheyenne - Gros Ventre Woman, ca. 1890 vintage photograph

Laton A. Huffman Round Up on the Move, 1913 photogravure print

J. s. Johnson (New York) Defender, 1896 vintage silver print

Gertrude Kasebier (1852-1934) Happy Days, 1905 photogravure from camera Work #10:11

Gertrude Kasebier Portrait - Miss Minnie Ashley. 1905 photogravure from Camera Work #10:5

Darius Kinsey (1869-1945) Cedar stump House. 20 Feet in Diameter, 1901 vintage gelatin silver print

Darius Kinsey Ground Lead Logging. Ready for First Pull, 800' to Yarding Donkey, Cedar, 1916 vintage gelatin silver print

Darius Kinsey Three Men in Undercut, 1906/75 contact print, toned

Darius Kinsey Vanzer Homestead, 1906/75 vintage gelatin silver print

Ron Kloster Eye in the Mirror Series #1, 1977

Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) Migrant Daughter, 1939/77

Helen Levitt (b. 1918) New York City, 1940

Richard Margolis #65 Rochester. New York, 1975 gelatin silver print, brown toned

Barbara Morgan (b. 1900) Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham in "Letter to the World", 1940

Dan Powell (b. 1950) Untitled (King Kong Influence}, 1977 hand colored multiple image silver print

Mary Randlett (b, 1924) Kelp. 1966

Christopher Rauschenberg (b. 1951) Untitled, 1974

Arthur Rothstein (b. 1915) Mike Sullinger Who has a Farm near Carson. North Dakota. Looks for Rain, 1936

Ben Shahn (1898-1969) Seward Park. New York City. 1933 vintage gelatin silver print

Edward Steichen (1879-1973) On the Houseboat. "The Log Cabin," 1908 autochrome, four color halftone from Camera Work #22:9

Paul Strand (1891-1976) Photograph. New York (Shadows}, 1917 photogravure from last issue of Camera Work #49/50:23

George Tice (b. 1938) Strand Theater. Keyport. New Jersey, 1973

Deborah Turbeville Two Models in Woods, 1976

Unknown Photographer Lewis and Clark Exposition #1, ca. 1900 contact print

Unknown Photographer Lewis and Clark Exposition #2, ca. 1905 contact print

James Van Der Zee (1886-1983) The Play. 1928 vintage gelatin silver print

Weegee (Arthur Fellig) (1899-1968) Saturday Night, 1941 vintage gelatin silver print

Minor White (1908-1976) Snow on Garage Door, 1960

 

SELECTIONS from THE MICROSOFT COLLECTION

The medium is gelatin silver print unless specified.

 

Mark Abrahamson (b. 1944) Electromagnetic Yule Tree Farm, 1990 Cibachrome print

Mark Abrahamson Migrant Workers' Camp. F.I.d.f. Cibachrome print

Dick Arentz (b. 1935) Bog III. Thomas. WV, 1989 platinum palladium print

Arthurs. Aubrey Tanks, 1990 RA-4 color pint

Arthurs. Aubrey Waste Gas Burners chromogenic print

Marsha Burns (b. 1945) Helen. Firefighter

Marsha Burns (b. 1945) Rodeo (USA), 1989

Eduardo Calderon (b. 1949) Man with Fish #2, 1990

Ron Carraher (b. 1935) Collator black and white photograph

Mark Daughhetee (b. 1951) Shaman, 1991 toned, gelatin silver print

Lewis Desoto (b. 1954) From the Botanica Series, 1986 Type-c print

John Gaines Puyallup Fair. Puyallup. WA, 1990

Craig Pozzi (b. 1942) Daffodil Festival. Tacoma. WA, 1989 Cibachrome print

Bert Hardy Sugar R. Robinson, 1954

Lorna P. Jordan (b. 1954) Electro-Petroglyph USA, 1987 Cibachrome print of computer drawing

David Robbins (b. 1957) Petroglyphs and Jet Contrails, NM chromogenic print

Michael Kenna (b. 1953) The Rouge #5, Dearborn, MI, 1992 sepia toned, gelatin silver print

Carolyn Krieg (b. 1953) Walleri, 1992 altered c-print

Spike Mafford (b. 1963) Untitled (Dia De Los Muertos}, 1990 Type C-color print

Patrick Nagatani (b. 1945) Japanese Children's Day Carp Banners, Laguna Pueble, NM, 1990 Cibachrome print

Patrick Nagatani "Bida Hi"/ Opposite Views, NE - Navajo Tract Homes and Uranium Tailings, Southwest-Shiprock, NM, 1990 Cibachrome print

Connie J. Ritchie From the series, You Just Can't Get Away From It, 1981 chromogenic print

John Stamets Taxi Passengers

 

SELECTIONS from THE WASHINGTON ART CONSORTIUM COLLECTION

Purchased with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Wright Foundation, unless specified. Collection of the Washington Art Consortium: Western Gallery, Western Washington University; Museum of Art, Washington State University, Pullman, Tacoma Art Museum; Cheney Cowles Museum, Spokane; Henry Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle; Whatcom Museum of History and Art; Seattle Art Museum.

The medium is gelatin silver print unless specified.

 

Robert Adams (b. 1939) South st. Vrain Canyon, Boulder county, Colorado

Diane Arbus (1923-1971) A Young Brooklyn Family Going for a Sunday Outing, New York City, 1966, Gift of Virginia Wright

Richard Avedon (b. 1923) Rosemary Woods. Washington, D.C. 1975

Lewis Baltz (b. 1945) Pasadena, 1973

Thomas F. Barrow (b.1938) Caulked Construction - Teepees, 1979 manipulated color print

Michael Becotte (b. 1945) Space Capsule Series, 1975 toned gelatin silver print

Paul Berger (b. 1948) Mathematics #57, 1977

Jerry Burchard (b. 1931) Times Theater

Harry Callahan (b. 1912) Cape Cod, 1972

Larry Clark (b. 1943) From The Tulsa Portfolio Gift of the Robert Freidus Gallery and an anonymous donor

Robert Cummings (b. 1943) 2 Saw's Ascent; - Stump's Drop. 1978

John Divola (b. 1949) Vandalism Series #1, 1974

William Eggleston (b. 1939) Man on Bed. Huntsville, Alabama dye transfer print

William Eggleston Bottles in Road dye transfer print

Lee Friedlander (b. 1934) Washington. D.C., 1976

Ralph Gibson (b. 1939) Untitled, 1975

John Gossage (b. 1946) Post Cards. Washington. D.C., 1976

Jan Groover (b. 1943) Untitled, 1979 chromogenic print, Gift of Virginia and Prentice Wright

Robert Heinecken (b. 1931) "Do you come here often?" 1976-78 Polaroid print

Les Krims (b. 1943) Classic Feminine Beauty, 1977 toned, gelatin silver print

Roger Mertin (b. 1942) Route 31. New York State, 1974

Duane Michals (b. 1932) The Bogeyman, 1973 series of 7 prints

Richard Misrach (b. 1949) Plate #33, 1975, Toned, gelatin silver print

Bea Nettles {b. 1946) Bee in a Corner, 1978 hand colored print

Bruce Patterson {b. 1950) Ambiance. Class Filler, 1977 manipulated hand colored silver print

 

SPECIAL THANKS TO

Peggy Weiss, Director of the Seafirst Gallery and Art Administrator of the Seafirst Corporate Art Collection

Heather Dwyer, Assistant to the Director of the Seafirst Gallery Rod Slemmons, guest curator for traveling portion of Seafirst Photography Collection

Deborah Paine, Arts Administrator of the Microsoft Collection The Washington Art Consortium

Paul Brower, Western Gallery Preparator

WWU Gallery Interns: Kari Erikkila, Kris Heller, Janelle Herrman Tiffany James and Peter Lane

Images
Image of text link to full accessible pdf