Don't go to Kiki Smith

Lucas Spivey
02/26/2010

The description of Kiki Smith’s upcoming lecture at UW Seattle is described on Brown Paper Tickets thusly, “Basically, art is just a way to think,” says Smith in her Art:21 segment. “It’s like standing in the wind and letting it pull you in whatever direction it wants to go.”

It doesn’t sell me. I’m tired of artists blowing in the wind. The nonchalance execution and ambiguous content comes off as cowardice. Her work usually looks… well… effortless. Like a high school project that maybe, almost, kind-of might deal with feminism, but not even in a well-rendered manner.

Instead, I have a better idea for your money. Go see Roger Shimomura at the Wing Luke. His current show Yellow Terror has teeth, and his artist talk, entitled An American Diary, will too. Instead of standing in the wind, Roger locates an important message and looks for a way to communicate that to a wide range of audiences, including me (a white dude). As a white dude, I still relate more to Roger’s themes of prejudice and stereotyping than I can themes of light, texture or any of the other insular “art about art” shows that crown out museums and galleries.

Rarely, do I hear a complaint about Roger’s work; except that his work seems “angry.” But allow yourself to be innocent, try looking at his work without being defensive. What I’ve found is that those people who come into a museum defensive leave as defensive. For example: if you’re ready to defend to the death that you are not racist, then you will leave feeling attacked for being racist. Bust you came in with that, Roger just exposed you.

Take it from me, white dude in Chinatown; I live and work here. I’ve worked with and love both the Wing Luke and the Henry. Few would dispute that the Wing Luke presents on social issues more than the Henry, which presents on… um… light (bulbs)? So if you are going to two artist lectures this month, go to Kiki Smith and Roger Shimomura. But if you are only going to one, make it Roger’s.

If you can’t make this lecture, contact me personally and I will make sure you at least get in to see Yellow Terror before it closes April 18th.

Make a day of it. Go see Roger’s other outstanding show at Greg Kucera Gallery (up through March 27th). When Greg closes his door at 5:30, head up Jackson St. to Sun Bakery and get a banh mi sandwich ($2.50) and tell them Lucas sent you. I’ll see you at the Wing Luke at 6:45.