The Renton History Museum – Seattle

Renton History Museum is another small local spot covered this week. It resides in the Art Deco former fire station, built in 1942. Raised near Renton, I have early memories of visiting this museum with school. It has changed quite a lot since then.

Their temporary exhibit is a project involving students at Renton High. Students were tasked with researching historic Renton families and comparing their experiences to that of their own family. It is a surprisingly large exhibit with a wide variety of responses. Not only is this a great example of outreach with the community, but it helps illustrate the modern diversity of Renton.

Cases along the wall of the main gallery feature the Duwamish, Coal Mining, Pacific Car and Foundry, and Denny-Renton Clay and Coal. Each of these utilizes really great panel text and images to contextualize the material. I particularly appreciated the object labels, which included the RHM item numbers. This allows interested visitors to better access further information on the objects and related items. In the Coal Mining display, there is also a photo slide show with music softly playing. The music drifts throughout the gallery, which adds a bit of ambiance to the space.

Before completing my tour of the main gallery, I stepped through to the small side gallery. “Sustaining a City” looks at the social and economic use of food in Renton. As a city built by immigrants, there is a lot of variety to the food items and practices in this community. Each display features a lovely vignette with objects, photos, and varying textures and colors. It helps to give defined space to each subject without taking up too much floor space. And they refrained from using mannequins, which is a wonderful decision! Too often mannequins quickly look dated and quite frankly creepy. Honestly, the vignettes didn’t need ‘people’ to make them look lived in. The museum did a really great job on them.

Back in the main gallery, “Something Bigger, Something Better: They Feys Movie Theatre Empire” takes a look at the iconic theatres of Renton’s past. The impressive Roxy neon sign is turned on and lights up the space in splashes of blue and red. It seems a little lost in the flow of the gallery though. You move from industry on the right to home life on the left, with this little space on theatres. I wish there had been more about other recreational businesses in the area to contextualize it better.

The tiny house is wonderfully done. It tells the stories of Modesta Delaurentis, Sarah Tonkin, Edmund Duss, and George Custer. Objects from each of their lives adorn the space and help paint a diverse image of life in early Renton. While these individuals came from different places and life experiences, the house seems cohesive. It brings together varying stories in a great way. The museum chose to use few barriers, so it feels more homelike and less like a staged vignette and the details are fantastic.

The final case is “The Boeing Renton Story” and uses mostly text and photos to tell the story of the local icon. There is an interactive flight simulator in the display, which was a little awkward to climb into. The controls weren’t registering with the program, so it didn’t actually work when I tried it out. A little disappointing, but I like the effort made to involve the visitor in the display.

While this museum is small, it makes good use of its space. They get creative with dividing the gallery and using design to define parameters. What they do well, they do really well.


January Joy: Discover JR’s work at Lazinc

Sackville Street’s newest gallery, Lazinc, is marking its launch with a multidisciplinary solo exhibition from the French street artist JR.

JR – GIANTS, Mohamed YOUNES IDRISS from Sudan, Flamengo. Close-up, © Comité international Olympique, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2016

JR’s work and his often collaborative approach, continues to go from strength to strength,  and continues to reach new audiences. He has recently made headlines with his work on the Mexico border and then again when his work work best documentary prize at Cannes 2017 for a film with the legendary Agnes Varda.

JR’s installation at Lazinc.

The exhibition demonstrates the full-cycle of JR’s installation practice – from his works’ inception to its outdoor execution, and it is particularly interesting to understand how process and inspiration come together in his famous work – he is not the first person to bring art out of the gallery but his is certainly one of the most effective, one of the most iconic. An excellent excuse to get out and about on a miserable January weekend, anyone interested will have no trouble finding the gallery as JR is reproducing his GIANTS installation on the exterior of the gallery, standing out from the nearby hedge-funds and John Nash architecture.

JR and his work on the US-Mexico border

Lazinc brings together contemporary art specialist, Steve Lazarides, founder of Lazarides, and eminent art collector and notable art collector, Wissam Al Mana. Building on the existing Lazarides business, Lazinc adds a flagship gallery in Mayfair to showcase its roster of acclaimed artists including: JR, Invader, Todd James, Mark Jenkins and Vhils promoting uninhabited, expressive and disruptive artists.

JR and Agnes Varda

If you haven’t seen it yet, JR’s TED talk is a great way to start understanding something of what drives the artist.




12 January – 28 February 2018

29 Sackville Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 3DX
+44 (0) 207 636 5443

New Grayson Perry exhibition opening at Firstsite, Colchester

“Our deeds still travel with us from afar/And what we have been makes us what we are.” – George Eliot, Middlemarch

18 November saw the opening of Firstsite’s latest exhibition, The Life of Julie Cope by Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry. The show features four large-scale tapestries, woodcuts and ceramic works among other work related to Perry’s A House for Essex (2015) – all playing on the theme of local identity.

Grayson Perry. Julie and Rob, 2013. Wool, cotton, acrylic, polyester and silk tapestry. 400 x 300cm. Published by Paragon. c. Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist, Paragon | Contemporary Editions Ltd and Victoria Miro, London

The protagonist of this show, Julie Cope, lives out her days on a trail from Canvey Island through to Colchester high street where an unfortunate collision with a delivery drive on a moped cuts her life short. The tapestries, on loan from the Crafts Council Collection, are strewn with Perry’s usual subtleties, all pointing at the common theme of identity and social history in Essex. As Perry himself has said of the work, it represents ‘the trials, tribulations, celebration and mistakes of an average life’. Cope’s journey across Essex is both physical and emotional, echoing George Eliot’s sentiment of where we have been making us who we are today.

Grayson Perry. In a Familiarity Golden, 2015. Tapestry. 290 x 343 cm. Published by Paragon. c. Grayson Perry. Courtesy the artist, Paragon | Contemporary Editions Ltd and Victoria Miro, London

A House for Essex lies in Wrabness, overlooking the Stour Estuary in north-east Essex. Perry designed the house in 2015 in collaboration with Charles Holland of FAT Architeture. It has been described by Holland as a ‘radical statement about the capacity of architecture for narrative and communication to tell a rich and complex story.’ Acting as a ‘shrine’ to fictional character Julie Cope, the building is described as an ‘ornate ceramic-clad, gingerbread-like edifice’. It is chapel-like, stunningly secular and notably ‘Perry’ in its bright colours and patterns that contrast so heavily with the drab Essex countryside. It was commissioned by Living Architecture, which was founded to change public perceptions about modern architecture.

The meticulous design of the house includes everything from the patented ‘Julie tile’ that depicts totems of Julie’s life: a nappy pin, a mixtape and the letter J. Woodcuts from the project that depict 6 stages of Julie’s life will also appear in the show, alongside an audio recording of The Ballad of Julie Cope: Perry’s penned epic that both opens and closes Julie’s life.

This exhibition entwines narrative with local culture, hopes with dream and love with loss. Perry’s usual dry observations of contemporary British culture align themselves with the quietness of life, providing a new sentimental angle to his work about his home county.

The Life of Julie Cope runs from 18 November 2017 until 18 February. For more details, visit

Duton’s Presents Rare Antiquities and Wonders at Asian Art in London

This Sunday 5th November marks the opening of Duton’s third edition of their Appreciation of China exhibition to take place at the Grosvenor House Hotel until 8th November.

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Entitled The Exhibition of Chinese Legacy, the presentation will feature a rare array of ceramic and sculptural masterpieces that have received praise from Chinese and international museums alike. The collections range from painted potteries from the Neolithic period and the Northern Qi Dynasty to Tang Dynasty horses, camels and auspicious beasts.

This key event launching Asian Art in London reflects Duton’s essential role as a platform for authentic and exquisite Chinese art and culture. A rare glimpse into the origin of Chinese art, each artwork on view is certified by Oxford Authentication, with many dating as far back as the old Tang and Song dynasties. The hero piece of the exhibition is a monolithic pair of painted horses, each 90 centimeters in height, the likes of which would be extraordinary to find even in the most prestigious of  institutional collections.

As the first Asian art company to arrive in Europe, Duton’s (est. 1999) is the first and premier Chinese auction house in the UK. Their Chairman, Mr. Du, a leading voice for Chinese art and antiquities, was vastly ahead of his contemporaries with his vision to bridge the longstanding cultural histories of China and Britain.

Against the contemporary backdrop of Asian Art in London, a key event in the British social diary, Duton’s will invigorate these important art objects with renewed cultural relevance. Unique to the location, Grosvenor House Hotel hosted the first ever exhibition of Chinese art in London in 1935. The event is a trusted partner of the Cultural Office of the Chinese Embassy, and will be attended by high profile members of British and Chinese society. Integrating Chinese art into the greater international art community is at the heart of Duton’s mission.

Young Art Star Emily Mulenga on Show at Firstsite, Colchester

Taking Up Space, the debut solo exhibition by the emerging British artist Emily Mulenga at Firstsite, Colchester, features a series of Mulenga’s video works as well animated GIFS and personalised emojis – or in the artist’s terms – MulengaMojis.

Emily Mulenga, 4 Survival 4 Pleasure (still image), 2, 2017. Courtesy of the artist
Emily Mulenga, 4 Survival 4 Pleasure (still image), 2, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Mulenga uses her own image within her work to assert ownership over the way it is viewed online. Through her works, Mulenga positions her filmed self or animated avatar in vivid virtual environments. The title of the exhibition, Taking Up Space, refers to the way in which the physical or digital body can be a productive and positive site of artistic investigation.

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David James’s ‘Civilisation’ at Gallery 46

2 October saw the debut solo exhibition of the British artist David James open at Whitechapel’s GALLERY46. Entitled Civilisation, it features a series of drawings and paintings that explore the relationship between personal experience and art history. The drawings are the result of a technique that modifies reproductions of masterpieces by artists such as Velázquez and Rembrandt torn from books, while the paintings are fabricated objects made from digital enlargements of the drawings on archival canvas mounted to board, with the addition of layers of resin, hair and grit. The sublime materiality of James’s paintings both seduces and repulses, a tension that highlights the possibilities of legibility and appropriation in image making. ArtAttack caught up with David to discuss his practice in more detail.

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Ed & Mike, 2014-16 © David James, by courtesy of the artist

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‘It’s how well you bounce’ at Bethlem Gallery

Bethlem Gallery is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a new group exhibition entitled It’s how well you bounce, which explores resilience and its relationship to the imagination and artistic practice. The gallery is an art focused platform for former and current patients of the historic Royal Bethlem Hospital in Bromley, supporting artists with lived experience of mental illness to involve themselves in the positive direction of art making. ArtAttack chats with Bethlem Gallery’s curator Sam Curtis about the show’s themes, the gallery’s milestone anniversary and what the future holds.

Bethlem Gallery, Mr X, 1 September 2017, Photo Ed Watts, Courtesy Bethlem Gallery[1].jpg
Mr X outside Bethlem Gallery. Photo Ed Watts, Courtesy Bethlem Gallery
 How does the theme of resilience manifest itself in the works in the exhibition?

The theme of resilience manifests itself in the works in the exhibition in diverse ways, we see the works of artists who draw on the imagination as a positive and strategic response to life pressures, works that are born out of the artist’s ability to adapt and survive to new and often challenging circumstances, artists that resist or document resistance to social and political pressures, artists that reroute negative thoughts into something more positive through their art making, artists that map, shape and transform their identity through art making and therapy and importantly we can encounter artworks and projects that critique the notion of resilience that says we need to ‘man or woman-up’ and bounce back from adversity . It’s how well you bounce includes artworks that explore a specific aspect of resilience as well as artworks that come from artistic practice that is itself a form of resilience.

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Installation view of Grayson Perry, Map of an Englishman, 2004. Photo: Ed Watts. Courtesy: Bethlem Gallery

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Disco Ball Soul: ArtAttack Interviews Emma Elizabeth Tillman

Opening on 11 August 2017 is photographer Emma Elizabeth Tillman’s debut solo show entitled Disco Ball Soul. The exhibition, consisting of more than 90 collages created over a ten-year period, is an accumulation of photographs and texts taken from her new book of the same title. Tillman began this body of work in 2007, recording precious moments, including her meeting of her now husband Josh.

1. Louisville, Kentucky, 2012 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, by courtesy of the artist.jpg
Louisville, Kentucky, 2012 © Emma Elizabeth Tillman, by courtesy of the artist

ArtAttack caught up with Emma to find out more about her thoughts on film, travel and making the private public.

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New Geographies launches today!

Today, 18th July, marks the launch of The East Contemporary Visual Arts Network’s (ECVAN) New Geographies, a three-year Arts Council England-funded project that invites members of the public to choose locations for 10 major site-specific visual arts commissions across the east of England.

Petrified Oak Forest of Mundon, Essex © Glyn Baker.jpg
Petrified Oak Forest of Mundon, Essex © Glyn Baker

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