Few art styles have left viewers as baffled (and even at times, irate) as minimalism — a bare-bones form of painting and sculpture that first emerged in the 1960s. Even for a public that had begun to appreciate wild abstractions of Jackson Pollock or the soup cans of Andy Warhol, exhibitions of steel plates lying on gallery floors, or blank canvases with a few ruled lines were hard to accept as art.
Those interested in visiting a current display of similarly challenging work need go no further than the Francine Seders Gallery on Phinney Ridge, where a drawing show by Seattle artist Robert McNown has just opened. One of the very subtly shimmering works in the exhibit appears from a distance to be nothing more than a grey piece of paper in a standard gallery frame. Oops, where’s the drawing?
I will be the first to admit that minimalism is the introvert of the art world. If you can’t get past your initial impression that there’s nothing there, there is no come-hither display of conspicuous color or lush imagery to bring you back. But in the case of McNown, walk on by and you’ll be missing something — an artist managing to be funny, clever, and even a bit zany within the extreme limits of the minimalist style.