Isaac Layman—Paradise

November 19, 2011 – January 22, 2012

Isaac Layman (b. 1977) has, in a few short years, established himself as an exceptional talent and is today one of Seattle’s most respected artists. The Frye Art Museum is proud to host his highly anticipated first solo museum exhibition. In Paradise, Layman expands his practice of constructing large-scale, psychologically charged, photographic-based visions of the spaces and objects found in his Seattle home. His new artworks explore the desire to fabricate escapes, destinations, and monuments and the role discontent plays in driving the need to create imagined perfection.

Curated by Frye Art Museum Director Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, Isaac Layman—Paradise features twenty new works created especially for the exhibition. These works address what Layman considers fundamental questions for finding or fabricating meaning in his life—questions as useful as they are unresolvable. Why are we here? Are we alone? How do we find a sense of whole while discerning difference? What are the difficulties and rewards of being alive? Layman believes that the paradise for which we often long “is the imagination and its projections; it represents artificial perfection. While it is the equal and opposite of confusion and disappointment, it would take the latter to imagine the former. Paradise always includes the heartache that came, that had to come, before that imagined perfection.”

Accompanying the Frye Art Museum exhibition is a catalogue documenting Layman’s paradise. It includes an essay by another exceptional Seattle talent, poet and author Doug Nufer. Almost all of Nufer’s fiction and poetry is based on formal constraints. His essay on Layman is largely a multiple parentheses constraint similar to one used by Raymond Roussel in his literary masterpiece New Impressions of Africa (1932). “Like Isaac,” Nufer observes, “Roussel confined himself to his room while touring paradise.” The catalogue, which also contains an essay by Birnie Danzker as well as a conversation with Layman on his practice, is available in the Frye's Museum Store for $28.

Layman’s work has garnered increasing attention across the United States and earned reviews on National Public Radio and in leading journals, including Artweek and Art in America. His objects are included in the collections of the Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington; the Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, Miami; the Monsen Collection of Photography, Seattle; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach; the Seattle Art Museum; and the Tacoma Art Museum. Layman was the recipient of the Seattle Art Museum’s Betty Bowen Award in 2008.

Isaac Layman—Paradise is organized by the Frye Art Museum and curated by Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker. The exhibition is funded by the Frye Foundation with generous support from the Offield Family Foundation, 4Culture, and Frye Art Museum members and donors.

Sponsorship for the exhibition is provided by Nitze-Stagen. Media sponsor is Seattle Met magazine. Seasonal support is provided by ArtsFund.

4Culture awarded Isaac Layman an Individual Artist Project award for this exhibition. Isaac Layman is also supported by the Artist Trust Grants for Artist Projects (GAP) Program.

The catalogue is funded by the Frye Foundation with the support of William Carleton and Cathy and Michael Casteel and additional support from Danielle Baker and Peter Myers, John and Shari Behnke, Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Vicki and Gary Glant, Adam Glant, Lisa and William Holderman, Cris and Bruce Jaffe, Mihail S. Lari and Scott E. Murray, Christopher and Alida Latham, Scott Lawrimore and Yoko Ott, Kelly and Diana Lindsay, Miller Meigs Collection, Janice Niemi and Dennis Braddock, Kathleen O'Grady, Yoshimi Ott, Bill and Bobby Street, and the Understanding & Insight Group LLC.

Image Credits:
Installation view.
Isaac Layman. Untitled, 2011. Photographic construction, ink-jet on paper. 59 x 78 in. Collection of the artist.
Isaac Layman. Land Grab, 2011. Photographic construction, ink-jet on paper. 59 x 98 in. in. Collection of the artist.
Isaac Layman. Untitled, 2011. Photographic construction, ink-jet on paper. 83 x 59 in. Collection of the artist.
Isaac Layman. Untitled, 2011. Photographic construction, ink-jet on paper. 87 x 120 in. Collection of the artist.

“The pieces in "Paradise" pose a challenge to Layman's viewers, even as they cut to the essence of what he's all about. . . . But if you linger with them, and chat with a docent about how they were made, they may just envelop and seduce you.”

Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times

“...turning an unplanned and unimportant unpleasantness into the vehicle for a majestic object of fine art, a monument that has traveled the greatest possible distance from the dumbest, dimmest beginnings to absurd blowout.”

Jen Graves, The Stranger