Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Sky Needle and the damage done.

I woke at 2, and again at 5, in a room festooned with books about algebra, chemistry, and fluid mechanics. I'm building up a profile of my host David without actually meeting him (yet). Trainers in the hall are the only evidence he's even been in his own apartment. Luli was keeping herself occupied so I had the run of the place. But no breakfast. Airbnb should probably just be airb.

The first person I saw on my first full day in Seattle was a man walking down the street telling no one in particular, quite loudly, about the 'zombie mafia'. The black lady with the giant red mohawk paid him no mind and the 20 or so elderly Chinese ladies waiting patiently outside a food bank clearly had weightier concerns.

I'm fortunate that I wasn't breaking my fast in such a fashion. I'd been tempted into a branch of, the crudely monikered, Biscuit Bitch on the corner of Cherry & 3rd.

I went for a Gritty Scrambled Cheesy Bitch (Vegetarian Bitch). They may be over using a certain word. It was biscuits & gravy smothered in grits, scrambled egg, and cheese. Washed it down with a 12oz cup of Seattle Fog (Earl Grey with a 'splash' of vanilla) and listened to Aaliyah's 'Try Again'.

It tasted better than it looks. At least once I'd added some Frank's Red Hot original cayenne pepper sauce. I was set up for the day.

Past skyscrapers trimmed with Art Deco flourishes I walked. Up to Pike Place Market and its brass pig (an actual piggy bank donated by a local ice cream firm) and it's gum wall. Which is literally a wall thickly plastered with smelly bubblegum.

At the market you can buy jumbo Alaska king crabs, Himalayan pink salt, rendered duck fat, snickerdoodles, Polish kielbasa sausages, rambutans, mangosteens, and 'wife cakes'! I simply enjoyed the sights and sounds of a city going about its business.

I met again with Gareth and Bec. We visited the Seattle Art Museum. It was fantastic. Combining the styles of Tate Modern, the V&A, and the National Gallery all under one roof in its collection.

It was lovingly, and intelligently, curated. It was sensitively lit. Even the air con was set right. Bec, who works in a gallery herself, thought it one of the most beautiful museums she'd ever seen. I agreed.

After a rather extensive preamble by a friendly member of staff we found ourselves in a room full of minimalist works. I was taken with the juxtaposition between Norman Zammit's 'Yellow' and Robert Irwin's 'Pillar' below.

The artworks crossed international boundaries and spanned centuries. I saw works by Warhol, Rauschenberg, Ellswoth Kelly, Rothko, De Kooning, Agnes Martin, Barnett Newman, Pollock, Jasper Johns, Beckmann, E.L.Kirchner, Josef Albers, Robert Delaunay, Thomas Eakins, Van Dyck, Murillo, Cranach the Elder, Monet, and Matisse.

The UK was represented by the impressive young painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. I'd enjoyed her show at the Serpentine a while back and felt proud to see her work in such exalted company.

One of the neat curatorial tricks the SAM liked to pull was playing sculptures off against paintings. To the mutual benefit of each. Here we see Anthony Caro's Veduggio Stay posing in front of Kenneth Noland's Vista.

I was equally impressed by these two Philip Guston paintings flanking a Cy Twombly bust. None of which were titled.

There's a large ethnographic section. Nuxalk masks, Japanese Edo period kettles, gold llama figures from the Andes, and 14c altarpieces from Siena share equal billing with Dervish begging bowls, Iranian ceramic mihrab tiles, Egyptian faience Hathors, Greek vases, a taxidermied cat, John Cage videos, and a cedar Horus.

It's great that the native American button robes, above, can sit in the same collection as Whitfield Lovell's comparatively recent Walkin' Blues and Kane Quaye's Ghanaian Mercedes coffin, both below.

So if you visit Seattle visit the Art Museum but also take a stroll along the waterfront to the Olympic Sculpture Park too. Especially if it's a sunny August day. Which it was. Pay only passing heed to the segway tours and get your outdoor art on.

The red painted metal of Alexander Calder's The Eagle plays off nicely against the bright blue sky.

I wasn't tired yet but it would've been rude not to take up Ginny Rufner's Mary's Invitation - A Place to Regard Beauty (2014).

Richard Serra's monumental, rusty, Wake is probably the highlight but find time for smaller pleasures too. Such as Louis Nevelson's Sky Landscape I.

A stroll uphill takes you to the Seattle Center. Home, most famously, of the iconic Sky Needle but also Frank Gehry's Experience Music Project, intersected by a monorail (oh, yes), a Claes Oldenberg sculpture, and various concession stalls and child friendly activities.

We sat in the sun eating veggie frankfurters. Talking Heads and Santigold played over the PA while kids played on the slide. It was, again, a joy to be alive.

Bec wasn't up for a trip up the Sky Needle so me and Gareth debated the relative merits of splurging $27 on such a brief experience.

So glad we decided to go up. Should've been a no brainer on such a clear day. The retro futuristic gold lift zips you up to the top in no time and the views stretch as far as Canada.

Once again we marvelled at how green the area was and how many lakes were dotted around. A seaplane landed in Lake Union. A helicopter hovered amongst the skyscrapers and, all the while, Mount Rainier stood defiantly in silent contemplation of our fleeting human follies.

Gareth and I wandered back to Pike Place and met Bec for a couple of jars and a chat about Snoopy and flea circuses in Kells.

We ended the night in Ian's Pizza by the Slice up on Capitol Hill. My odd hipstery meal being a mac'n'cheese pizza and a can of PBR. Sadly no PBRR&B soundtracked my slurping.

We'd walked the best part of 20k and I'd had a brilliant first full day of my West coast adventure. Thanks to Gareth and Bec and here's to many more.

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