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Originally published Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 7:06 PM

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Art review: Horiuchi's collages, some rarely seen, demonstrate his mastery

Works by "Master of Collage" Paul Horiuchi are on show at ArtREsource.

Special to The Seattle Times

Exhibition review

'Paul Horiuchi: Paintings and Collages'

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, through May 8, ArtREsource, 625 First Ave. Suite 200, Seattle (206-838-2695 or www.SeattleArtResource.com).

Everyone knows what a collage is these days — teenagers and scrapbookers meticulously cut pictures and words from magazines and craft papers as they make their self-portraits or memory-book designs.

So what does it mean for an artist to be a "Master of Collage," as Paul Horiuchi has been dubbed? Horiuchi — who was born in 1906 in Japan and died in 1999 in Seattle — created graceful juxtapositions of texture and color, using paint, ink and paper, developing the medium into an expressive form during a time when abstract painting was king.

Horiuchi moved to Seattle in 1946, and, after painting here for about a decade, he made his first collage, piecing together torn and cut pieces of calligraphy and textured paper. At the recommendation of his friend, Northwest painter Mark Tobey — they were introduced by their Zen master — Horiuchi drew on his heritage, creating works that abstractly evoke the forms and textures of nature.

Over the decades, his style evolved from tight, densely packed smaller pieces to looser large-scale compositions (some are 5 or 6 feet across), but all of his work exudes quiet energy and calm. In fact, Horiuchi once said that his collages were "attempts to produce areas of peace and serenity with which to balance the sensationalism — the fast, hard tempo — of our time."

But Horiuchi's meditative collages are still strongly connected to reality. Early on, Horiuchi was inspired by the multiple layers of scraped-away and torn fliers and posters on the sign boards in the Chinatown International District. His fragments of writing and painted-over pieces of paper are beautified, peaceful versions of those forms.

While most of his titles are abstract — "Dormant Blue," or simply, often, "Untitled" — there are occasional references to narratives or landscapes. In the surprising collage titled "Rock Garden," Horiuchi abandons his more well-known very flat abstractions to provide a realistic sense of space and place.

It's a treat to see so many of the collages (more than 20) together in the current show at ArtREsource, a division of the Greg Kucera Gallery. ArtREsource does not represent artists directly, focusing on the resale of fine art on consignment from collectors. Many of these works by Horiuchi are museum-quality, but have never been seen by the public.

Manager Jena Scott says that when eight different collectors offered the gallery strong pieces by Horiuchi, she knew there was a unique opportunity to pull together an exhibition, even though organizing single-artist shows has not been a primary goal.

I think Horiuchi, whose grandfather was an antiques dealer, would have approved of this exhibition: The collages are nicely displayed in the front rooms of the gallery, while the other spaces are filled with Northwest art, antiques, and various other things including some quirky vintage photographs and erotica from Asia. The whole shebang is a stimulating pastiche of old and new, with nods to the history of fine art and winks at pop culture.

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