September 18, 2000
The beauty and simplicity of Shaker art come to Seattle Art Museum
by Deborah Stone
"Creating Perfection: Shaker Objects and Their Affinities," an exhibition of more than 150 works of Shaker furniture, tools, textiles, craft machinery and photographs, opens Oct. 5th at the Seattle Art Museum.
This exhibit examines Shaker traditions, focusing on a society well known for its simplicity and lean aesthetic. The various works are mostly drawn from the extensive collection of The Shaker Museum and Library.
"Creating Perfection" centers on the social forces that influenced Shaker life and design, as well as the connection between Shaker and non-Shaker New England material to show where Shakers obtained their ideas. The exhibition also helps establish a link between contemporary art and the Shaker aesthetic.
The Shakers, or United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, were the most successful of the communitarian societies established in America during the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Shaker faith spread throughout New England, New York and the Midwest.
Communities of Shakers produced goods for their own use and soon others recognized these goods for their quality.
Shakers apply the virtues of simplicity, purity and perfection to their work and themselves. They strive to create "heaven on earth" and the architecture of their buildings, their clothing and their art all reflect this desire towards a perfect social structure.
The objects in "Creating Perfection" are divided into two areas. The first section features Shaker furniture, textiles and practical items used on farms and in small factories. The second area includes works on paper, moving from historical photographs and early prints and drawings to photographs of Shakers in domestic and shop settings.
In an adjacent gallery, a group of comparative works provides an opportunity to see the type of New England objects from which the Shakers received their design inspiration.
Another gallery space holds approximately twenty paintings, drawing and sculptures by leading modern artists Carl Andre, Robert Gober, Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin and Robert Wilson.
These artists communicate by minimal forms that rely on shapes, repetition and color. The comparisons between recent contemporary American art and Shaker art indicate a similarity in belief between the two groups, helping to connect them in the eye of the viewer.
"Creating Perfection" runs through April 29, 2001. For further information call 206-654-3100.