The Unicorn Incorporated: Curtis R. Barnes

June 14 – September 21, 2014

The Frye Art Museum is pleased to announce The Unicorn Incorporated, the first museum exhibition to celebrate the work and career of Seattle artist Curtis R. Barnes. For over five decades, Barnes has worked as an artist, illustrator, muralist, and community advocate. In his sculpture, painting, and drawing, he employs imagery derived from his vast experience, mystical erudition, and heritage. Throughout the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, he produced searing social commentary in pen and ink, drawings that are as prescient and powerful today as they were then.

As a child in the '50s, Barnes attended his first art classes at the Frye Art Museum. He is a living reminder of the Museum's mission—since its inception—to provide free access to art and education for children. Barnes continued his education at the Cornish College of the Arts and the Seattle Central Community College Wood Technology Program.

In 1972, Barnes and fellow artist Royal Alley-Barnes designed and realized the beloved Omowale mural at Medgar Evers Pool in Seattle’s Central District. Despite passionate appeals and numerous letters of petition from concerned citizens, the mural was destroyed in 1995.

The Unicorn Incorporated presents a selection from the extensive body of work of this prolific artist and pays homage to the legacy of the Omowale mural.

The Unicorn Incorporated: Curtis R. Barnes is organized by the Frye Art Museum and curated by Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker. The exhibition is funded by the Frye Foundation with the generous support of David and Kristi Buck and Frye Art Museum members and donors. It is sponsored by the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. Seasonal support is provided by 4Culture and ArtsFund. Media sponsorship is provided by City Arts.

Curtis R. Barnes. Looking for Open Windows among the Shadows of the Cocaine Envelope, 1980. Mixed media on canvas. 47 x 37 in. Collection of the artist.
Curtis R. Barnes. Hummingbird, 1976. Pencil and conté on paper. 14 x 9 1/2 in. Collection of the artist.
Curtis R. Barnes. Junkie Finds a Broken Mirror and Looks Forward into His Past, 1971. Mixed media on canvas. 30 x 31 1/2 in. Collection of the artist.
Curtis R. Barnes. Chas Darwin III, from the Mask series, 1982. Pen, ink, and opaque correction fluid on paper, mounted on graph paper. 8 1/2 x 10 1/2 in. Collection of the artist.
Curtis R. Barnes. Bubba and the Night Riders, from the Cowboy Named Bubba series, 1995–2000. Mixed media on canvas. 24 x 30 in. Collection of the artist.
Curtis R. Barnes. Apartheid (detail), 1984. Pen and ink. Courtesy of the artist.

“An important opportunity to understand all the people(s) we are in this region, and, for that matter, on this continent.”

Laura Cassidy, Seattle Met