Plain Old Magic
My great-grandmother was a water witch. Farmers in Ohio paid her to run around with a stick from a cherry tree and find buried water. Supposedly dowsing is an inherited ability, so if anyone in the industry can hook me up with a way to test my latent power of divination, I might be shifting professional gears soon.
I mention dowsing because I stopped by designer/artist/fashionista Anna Telcs’ Inscape studio on the way to First Thursday openings. Later this month (February 23—May 5) she’ll be taking over Henry Art Gallery’s Test Site with a performance/installation called The Dowsing. Telcs has been toiling away, researching 19th century undergarment construction at Henry’s Reed Collection Study Center. This research will be factoring into the pieces constructed for the upcoming show, and back at Inscape, her studio is overflowing with ruched and pleated muslin, gauzy pattern blocks and all sorts of fascinating textile confections. I love that her super-sculptural garments don’t come across as costumy or gimmicky. Like Telcs herself, the designs are austere yet ethereal, angelically alien, the stuff of a futuristic plain clothes fairytale. (I could go on. I have a crush.) One urgent complaint: I want Telcs to make ready-to-wear sometime soon. Or even accessories made of horsehair, dammit. Just something the rest of us can put on for our next big outing.
I’m a fan of just about everything Rodrigo Valenzuela and Anthony Sonnenberg do. So much so that I’ve written about them and worked with them individually many times. I love that they collaborated on a small series of videos for this month’s Gallery4Culture show, Self. The pairing works.
Sonnenberg generally makes glossy, messy, baroque ceramic sculptures (of the Jeffry Mitchell and Alwyn O’Brien school). But he also branches out to performance, a la Captain Dirty Bear. Sonnenberg’s bare-bellied Captain Dirty Bear is awkward, messy, feral and often comes with a pouch of glitter with which to baptize the public. He’s not afraid to make his unwieldy body, anxiety and sexuality the subject of his work. Self is a more graceful, cinematic look at Sonnenberg literally embodying the struggle to reconcile internal identity and external projections of persona. That struggle is lonely, the tasks required to facilitate simple movement through the world Sisyphean.
In one video, Sonnenberg walks backwards through a forest path, eyes fixed steadily on an oversize rearview mirror that's strapped to his head. He has to look backward to move forward, relying on the mirror. Another two-channel installation captures two views of Sonnenberg walking along a picturesque path through a field filled with wildflowers. This time, he’s wearing a monstrous, pink armature/sculpture over his head made from insulation and spray foam. He can’t see anything of the outside world, but moves forward according to Valenzuela’s remote instructions. One channel shows footage from inside of a heaving body struggling. The other channel shows the strange, flower-like headpiece from the outside, drifting.
Valenzuela couldn’t be much more different from Sonnenberg physically. Tall, dark, handsome: physicality working in his favor. Yet his everyday frustrations—like communicating with awkward English (as a second language) and maintaining legal status in the US—form a movingly empathetic alliance with Sonnenberg’s more superficial, corporeal frustrations.
YES & NO
For Cable Griffith's show in the backspace at SOIL, there's a wall covered with a grid of framed drawings and paintings on paper. It’s a diary of developmental notes, a dismembered sketchbook. I’m not too interested in these dank, grey, February-ish drawings. SOIL members get a solo show once every two years or so, depending on the number of members, etc, and I wanted to see something loud and bright, like his Isle-of-the-Dead-on-acid paintings. Not to pigeonhole Griffith, but it’s something he does extremely well and they would have paired perfectly with the Andy Arkley/Courtney Barnebey/Peter Lynch show Magic Sync in the front gallery—a show that delivers acid brightness in spades. This trio is made of the guys from Library Science and Bran Flakes and their interactive installation of blippy lights and bouncy music is fun like their concerts. (But their concerts are still more fun than the exhibit. There are no dancing tacos and confetti bombs at SOIL.)
Did you notice a security camera rather slyly, inconspicuously installed above Greg Kucera’s office in his gallery? It’s bronze. It’s SuttonBeresCuller. Apparently someone got into bed with someone recently.
For those of you wanting a classy art walk after party hangout, rejoice! Thursday night was the soft opening for Matt Dillon’s new Bar Sajor on the corner of Occidental and Jackson. The place was packed with tipsy art-and-foodie glitterati, toasty with blazing wood-fired ovens, perfumed with the succulence of flatbread, rotisserie chickens and enough complimentary red wine to fuel a bacchanalia.
Back on Capitol Hill later that night, I found myself doing tequila shots with Constant Lovers’ Eric Fisher and Joel Cuplin in an artist’s apartment on Capitol Hill. Fisher, former gallerist at Ambach and Rice, current guitarist for Constant Lovers, is one of Dillon’s business partners at Bar Sajor. I like Cuplin because he tears through bouquets of roses onstage faster than Jodorowsky’s paraplegic bottle blondes. They recently made this band photo, a composite of Cuplin, Fisher, Mike Horgan and Gavin Tull-Esterbrook. I’m not sure I'm smitten by the looks of this uni-Lover. I think, given the band’s name, a simple, composite photo of a member is in order.
GOOD, IRRESPONSIBLE CURATING
Scott Lawrimore told me once he’s a huge Peter Greenaway fan. It was like the clouds parted for me. Not that Lawrimore’s curatorial style is clouded, but it can tend towards complex, esoteric narrative-building. (Remember the Has Art? publications that went with the series of exhibits last year at Lawrimore Project? Each exhibit was conceptually—often obscurely, obliquely—interwoven with Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés.) Like Greenaway, Lawrimore likes to play with numbers, parallel, overlaid narratives, punning, intertextuality.
His curatorial debut at Frye Art Museum this Friday, with the twinned exhibits 36 Chambers and Chamber Music, doesn’t tone this down at all. Drawing from James Joyce’s Chamber Music, Lawrimore asked thirty-six Seattle artists, curators or community organizers to respond to thirty-six poems, then to fill thirty-six shelves on a thirty-six person gossip chair with archivable ephemera. Chamber Music as inspiration for an exhibit is a weird choice in many ways. The collection of poems, published in 1907, is immature, lovelorn, syrupy. Couldn’t be less avant garde, less Ulysses. The awkward sincerity and naiveté of the poems says something about Lawrimore’s love for community, for supporting collaboration, diversity, etc. Quoting part of Peter Eleey’s theory of irresponsible curating, he commented during a lecture Sunday: “Putting two objects next to each other done poorly is bad curating; if done well, it’s good irresponsible curating.” The intertextuality runs deep enough that conceptual aspects of these exhibits certainly risk getting lost in translation. But Lawrimore’s declaration that he’s eager to fall in love with community and get experimental with exhibits is good news for the rest of us.
THIS WEEK'S RECOMMENDATIONS
Titties for Valentines? Mais, bien sûr! Kelly O’s show XXXO at Vignettes will set the mood.
Also opening on Feb. 14 is a new Cap Hill gallery, Hard L (1216 10th Ave, Ste. L). The lineup for the one-night show looks good (Ellen Forney, Wynne Greenwood, Alice Wheeler and at least 23 more). But another Elles-inspired, all-girl show in Seattle? I just threw up in my mouth a little. But I’m not writing it off. I’m an optimist.
Another Blitz must-see: Jason Puccinelli at Joe Bar. I got a sneak peak of Puccinelli’s work for this show and it’s mouthwatering.
Friday night Greg Lundgren is bringing the happy hour to Hedreen Gallery [disclaimer: I'm the curator there] for Everything is just fine: a conversation about art and ambition in Seattle. 6:30–8 p.m. Seattle artists love to talk about themselves, their city, their woes, their lusts, etc., etc. He’s opening that can of worms. Someone recently said to me: "Greg's vision for Walden Three is both brilliant and exasperating. It sounds plausible, except for one missing piece: the economic engine that will ignite and propel it forward. Reading his blog, I find it a curious literary specimen—both earnest in its hope of success but a clever act of self-parody. A casual reader who didn't know Greg might mistake the author for a delusional Rupert Pupkin who is talking to cardboard cut-outs of the art world's Jerry Langfords in his basement. But America is a place where dreamers like him often succeed, a place where the Harold Hills of the small towns can convince (or deceive) everyone into believing their delusion to the point where it becomes reality. Maybe he's a prophet. Only time will tell."