Day 1 of 7 Museums in 7 Days was absolutely lovely. I made my way over to the Frye Art Museum this afternoon for a meander around their galleries. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed in the galleries. Please forgive the text heavy post.
Tuesday - Sunday 11 am - 5 pm
Thursday 11 am - 7 pm
Opened in 1952, the Frye is home to the founding collection amassed by Charles and Emma Frye for whom the museum is named. Today I saw only a small selection of this collection, as the majority of the museum space is filled with traveling exhibitions.
The first of these exhibitions I encountered was "Isamu Noguchi/ Qi Baishi/ Beijing 1930" centered around the ink drawings done by these men during their 6 month friendship. I am familiar with traditional Chinese ink drawings, but it was interesting to learn about how these two pushed the boundaries of this ancient style. Baishi chose to utilize his personal experiences for subject matter, while Noguchi focused on the human form in variety of postures. These two approaches filled the exhibition with a surprising amount of variety given the style. My favorite pieces were "Shrimps" and "Grasshopper" by Baishi.
The galleries are arranged in a typical art museum style. There is little indication of a linear path, abundant blank wall space, and open floor plan. I usually find this style to be a bit bland, however I found the empty space helped me focus on the drawings. Their simplicity of line and depth of emotion could easily have been overpowered by a louder design.
I was curious about the method by which the curators hung the pieces. Most were ink on paper, some mounted to silk backing, and hung from horizontal wooden rods. These rods were then suspended by a rope on a hook. As these are 80 year old drawings, I wondered if the ropes were original and how the conservators dealt with mounting these pieces without damaging the ropes. Some were mounted horizontally, which only compounded my curiosity regarding the support systems. I walked away with many questions, but no answers.
There were many tour/discussion groups traversing the galleries. I was surprised by their liveliness, having seen similar groups in other museums. Often I am overwhelmed by the deafening silence of art museums, but the Frye was alive with the happy chatter of interested guests. In a few galleries, this chatter got a bit loud, but for the most part it was kept to an acceptable level.
The next exhibition space I walked through was titled "Mark Tobey/ Teng Baiye/ Seattle/ Shanghai". A similar story to that of Noguchi and Baishi, this exhibition explored the impact of artists from different countries learning from each other and influencing each other. However, where the previous exhibition focused on the gentle manipulation of a traditional art form, this one highlighted the extensive interplay between two art forms. The western and Chinese were inseparable and pushed the viewer to interpret the pieces as wholly multicultural. I found these works to be busier than those of Noguchi and Baishi, in a kind of frantic way. I particularly enjoyed a piece titled "La Résille", which explored the third dimension with regard to calligraphy.
The final space I entered had an immediately dislocating affect. I was unsure how this space fit in with the other exhibitions and what its intention was. The walls were covered in gilt framed paintings with no labels to indicate their origin. Upon further exploration I came across a few gallery books, revealing this space to be the "Frye Salon". Suddenly all became clear. These books contain a wall by wall explanation of each painting, as well as the history of the collection and the Frye family. I would have preferred a different system for displaying this information, but at least it was accessible.
The museum houses a cafe, shop, and auditorium in addition to gallery space. And to top it all off, they have dedicated free parking across the street! Practically unheard of so close to Broadway! With lots of events going on weekly at the museum, the Frye is part art museum part community engagement center. The current exhibitions close on May 25th, so make sure to include it in your next rainy day outing!
Stay tuned for Day 2 of 7 Museums in 7 Days: The Puget Sound Navy Museum!