With the World Wars emerged a growing concern for rationing. And for media outlets, this attitude of conservation led to a reconsideration of paper-type.
Thus, an inexpensive form of entertainment began: pulp fictions. And not the 1994 Tarantino film.
Currently featured at the Seattle Art Museum, “Pulp Fictions,” is a gallery located just behind the gift shop and free of charge.
The “Pulp Fictions” exhibit features four Pacific Northwest artists who use pulp paper as one of the main types of media in their work. Other media includes acrylic paint, cardstock and prints.
According to The Vintage Library, a digital collection of literature featuring many pulp fiction magazines, pulp fiction received its name from the wood pulp paper used to produce short comic magazines from the early 1900s to the 1950s.
Pulp is a cheap, thin paper that was easy to mass-produce in contrast to the high quality, glossy paper used by other magazines.
The covers of the economical fiction magazines often featured a lady in trouble with a dashing man come to her rescue, bright colors and dramatic contrast. The artists drew from the eye-catching quality of old pulp fictions in their work, some using the same pulp paper as a medium.
Alfred Harris, one of the four featured artists, was the main artist to use pulp paper in his work.
With much experience making art around the Pacific Northwest, Harris found his inspiration for this installment from “old fashioned” colors, informed by the look of old cars and colors encountered when scraping house paint.
His pieces in the exhibit included “Failing light,” “Desfinado,” “Untitled 1835” and “Untitled 1840.”
“Untitled 1898” uses mixed media on paper, emphasizing what Harris wants to convey to his audiences: chaotic elegance.
Alongside Harris’ work hung that of Kate Sweeney, Jennifer Zwick and Cathy Sarkowsky, all experienced Pacific Northwest artists.
Sweeney has been working in Seattle since 1991.
During her childhood Sweeney enjoyed reading her parents physics and medical books. Though she did not understand much of their content, she gained a new love for art through them.
As a young adult, that love led her to pursue a degree from art school in scientific illustration, eventually leading to a BFA in Medical Illustration from the University of Michigan.
For the “Pulp Fictions” gallery she brought several arts pieces, including a two-part piece called “Kali Confronts the Blood Demons.” Each part utilized different pieces of cardstock, paint and pulp paper but relied on a continuation of common themes and colors.
The geometrical shapes in her work acted as classic signatures. According to Sweeney’s video, “An Artist in Context,” she works with open composition so that her 2D work plays with 3D perspective.
Zwick, on the other hand, works mainly with photographs. She received her BFA in Photography from the University of Washington in 2004.
Her inspiration for her photography comes from childhood fantasies and from bizarrely adventurous young girls who populate beautiful but uneasy worlds. She is led to construct life-sized environments and fantastical scenes in her work.
At the “Pulp Fictions” show Zwick brought “North Bend Triangle,” “AstroTurf” and “Paper.” Each piece features a triangle set in the middle of the outdoors.
“North Bend Triangle” is set in a forest with a large red triangle placed near an old tall tree. It is categorized as a print piece in which the photo was manipulated.
Sarkowsky, too, was educated here in the Pacific Northwest, starting in 1976 with her BA from Pomona College in Claremont, California.
She then continued to get her MA at the University of Oregon and another MA degree from Antioch University in Seattle.
She has even featured work at SPU before in 2003 as part of “Seattle Print Arts at SPU.”
Sarkowsky’s pieces included “Open Mandala (XL),” “Open Mandala (M/1),” “Circle Waving” and “Woven Circle.” She uses traditional tools, such as acrylic ink and graphite paper or pasted paint and hand printed mulberry paper, to make a modern art.
“Open Mandala (XL)” is a circle surrounded by more circles, extending outward until the circle almost fills the page. What makes this piece unique is that each circle is made of tiny green, red and yellow squares that are placed in the shape of a circle.
Building on the genre of mass-produced comics known for their inexpensive quality, “Pulp Fictions” brings together history and geometrical shapes through abstract tactics and encourages viewers to celebrate in their diverse media and colors.
“Pulp Fictions” will be on display at the Seattle Art Museum until May 14.