James Harris Gallery: Scott Foldesi and Mark Mumford

My final stop for the evening was at the James Harris Gallery, to check out Scott Foldesi’s paintings and to size up Mark Mumford’s oversized laminated text.

Mumford’s work makes me yawn, honestly. He takes a page straight out of Duchamp’s playbook with “Ceci ne pas une pipe”, employing the same trick when he charges a gazillion dollars to paste oversized decals on the walls that are supposed to challenge our assumptions about what is and isn’t arty about art. Where’s the value? Ok, so that’s his point, but he uses a sledgehammer, and the joke is on the collector afterall.

James Harris Gallery

Not Everything Is Visible (Mark Mumford, 2008) Image: James Harris Gallery

For surrealist, readymade, useless expensive art, I’d much rather go in for Roy McMakin’s art. One of my favorite art works in all of Seattle is at James Harris Gallery — it’s McMakin’s gorgeous Ikea-like ivory bureau with one drawer that doesn’t fit. I’ve spent nearly half an hour examining this dresser, and it is exquisitely fashioned. It looks so ordinary, but the craftsmanship is outstanding. It looks like a readymade, but it isn’t. And it’s maddening. Buying it (at $40 grand) would be like buying an artfully chipped set of china. I’ve seen this dresser before, but I’ll happily come back to grit my teeth at it. I hope it ends up in a public collection, so we can continue our tortured relationship.

James Harris Gallery

Untitled (a small chest of drawers with one drawer that doesn’t fit) (Roy McMakin, 2008) Image: James Harris Gallery


The highlight at James Harris right now is Scott Foldesi’s American Dreams, a collection of oil paintings of American places that are so familiar they could be anywhere. Foldesi strips his images down to their simplest elements in both color and line to convey his sense of place, erasing the specificity of time or location.

James Harris Gallery

Motel Pool (Scott Foldesi, 2008) Image: James Harris Gallery

Close inspection of each image reveals no blending of the colorfields. Foldesi approachs each scene as though it were a Paint-by-Number image; he relies on our eye to do the gradient shading for him.

The thing is, these are real places. They have been stripped of their logos, their license plates, their people, their specific identifying features. They are places that people transition through, staying only long enough for them to become vaguely familiar but never intimate. Just as Foldesi expects us to visually blur the colorfields, in our minds we blur these locations together, as if we had whizzed past them on a great highway to somewhere else. Which truck stop is that? And which motel? Does it matter? Aren’t they all the same?

In painting the architecture of the recent past – particularly the motels and malls of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s – Foldesi evokes both a nostalgia for the great American road trip as well as the sad, empty, lonely restlessness that these places inspire. I look at the image above, and all I can think about is the bored lethargy that strikes on a hot day while you know you should be headed somewhere else.

James Harris Gallery

Truck Stop (Scott Foldesi, 2008) Image: James Harris Gallery

I could stare at these pictures for a long, long time, but I’ve got things to do, places to go, people to see.

Catch Scott Foldesi’s work (and Mark Mumford’s) on display at James Harris Gallery until February 14.


~ by ecp on January 9, 2009.

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