News Column

Wright Exhibition Space to close, art going to SAM

July 14, 2014

By Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times



July 14--Wright Exhibition Space, an offbeat player in the Seattle gallery scene for the last 15 years, will close its doors permanently when its current exhibit, "Jim Dine: A Life in Printmaking," ends on July 19.

"I'm all for simplifying my life at this point," owner Virginia Wright, 85, said in a phone interview last week. "It seems like a good idea to just call it a day and move on."

Wright Exhibition Space opened in 1999 in a South Lake Union warehouse converted into offices and a gallery by architect Jim Olson. Wright's husband, Bagley Wright (1924-2011), needed new office space at the time, and the couple also hoped to find a place to house some of their art collection.

"This was kind of a chance to do something different," Virginia Wright says. "We could get a building and it would serve as storage for art that we weren't hanging in our house. And we also could have a space for offices and an exhibition space where we could show things."

The Bagley and Virginia Wright Foundation ran the space as a nonprofit, and it soon became more than just a showroom for the Wrights' own art collection.

"The way it evolved," Wright explains, "we did welcome the idea of making it available to other people who wanted to make an exhibition."

Wright Exhibition Space has always marched to the beat of its own drum. It doesn't have a website. It has never sold any of the art it had on view. It's open to the public only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays. And it's about as low-profile, in terms of street presence, as you can get.

Still, it has hosted some impressive exhibits, including solo shows of work by Ed Ruscha, Alden Mason and the current Dine show.

"Jim Dine: A Life in Printmaking," curated by Chris Bruce, draws from a donation of 206 prints the artist recently made to the Museum of Art at Washington State University. It weaves themes and variations on a number of Dine's obsessions: hearts, bathrobes, birds, workshop tools and Pinocchio.

Dine, initially acclaimed as a pop artist in 1960s New York and now a part-time Walla Walla resident, has pursued traditional printmaking throughout his career. These rich, complex pieces are a heady brew of personal iconography, daring color schemes, rich texture and surprising compositions -- the show is a high note for the gallery to end on.

Several factors are contributing to Wright Exhibition Space closing.

"We don't need so many offices, with Bagley gone," Virginia Wright says.

Another factor: major construction is in the works nearby.

"I don't think it would be much fun to be around," she muses, "while we have a lot of construction noise next door."

Still, she has clearly enjoyed the 15-year ride she embarked on at age 70: "It was a real pleasure for me to play curator and to try and write up some kind of statement about the shows we gave, and then do the installation."

The artworks housed in the Dexter Avenue facilities, which make up roughly one third of the entire Wright collection, will all be donated to the Seattle Art Museum within three or four months.

Michael Upchurch: mupchurch@seattletimes.com

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Source: Seattle Times (WA)


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