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Bellevue Arts Museum to Present a Fresh Perspective on Contemporary Portraiture
Sonya Clark, Afro Abe Progression (3 in series) 2008. $5 bill and thread, 3 x 6 in. Photo: Abigail Volkmann.

BELLEVUE, WA.- Bellevue Arts Museum offers a fresh perspective on contemporary portraiture with its new exhibition ÜberPortrait, on view June 16 through October 18, 2009. Comprised of over 30 works by locally, nationally and internationally celebrated artists, this unique exhibit examines the ‘portrait’ in all its facets – from individual likeness to overarching cultural identity. Working in a broad range of media such as sculpture, ceramics, photography, fiber, performance art and film, artists highlighted in ÜberPortrait share a common interest: exploring the age-old fascination with capturing a person’s likeness and/or recreating his or her identity, both as individual and a collective entity.

The work of eleven artists will be featured in ÜberPortrait. Ah Xian’s pierced and carved porcelain busts opulently decorated with traditional polychrome Chinese designs are born out of a sense of longing for his former motherland, China. Kukuli Velarde’s terracotta self-portraits, evocative of Pre-Colombian figurines and vessels of her native Peru, raise racial, social and cultural issues informing contemporary post-colonial societies, or as she puts it “the violent encounter between the European and the indigenous world.” Kate Clark’s beasts with human faces are hybrid creatures that both attract and repulse; they echo the insecurities of our human condition, wavering between instinct and rationality. Mixed-media artist Nick Cave focuses on the connotations of materials as means to constructing narratives with his wearable sculptures. Completely concealing the wearer’s identity, the artist allows the work to transcend preconceived notions of class, race and sexuality, all elements traditionally addressed by – and intrinsic to – portraiture.

As the name suggests, the artists in ÜberPortrait go beyond the traditional boundaries and limitations of a singular portrait or representation to capture a broader sense of cultural belonging – or even cultural longing. “The key to this exhibition lies in the craft media and techniques used by the artists,” says Curator Stefano Catalani. “Fraught with cultural, historical, racial, political and social associations, the artists blend, blur, if not erase, the representation of an individual through the depiction or construction of an overarching cultural reality. Craft (both as medium and technique) is thus recovered as a cultural signifier, and when still employed within the tradition, is energized through unexpected manifestations that require a new interpretation.”

Artists include: Nick Cave (IL), Kate Clark (NY), Sonya Clark (VA), John Grade (WA), Margot Quan Knight (WA), Ledelle Moe (MD), Darrel Morris (IL), Brian O’Doerty (A.K.A. Patrick Ireland; NY), Kukuli Velarde (PA), Dan Webb (WA) and Ah Xian (Australia).

Bellevue Arts Museum | Nick Cave | Kate Clark | Sonya Clark | John Grade | Margot Quan Knight | Ledelle Moe | Darrel Morris |

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