Monday, March 9, 2009

I saw wood in Tacoma

What is the deal with artists going crazy about using wood these days? I went to Tacoma Art Museum last week and caught the Biennial show. Smack I the center of the crowded, poorly hung space, is Scott Trimble’s recycled pallet wood roller coaster piece. It’s a decent work, has a nice quality about it, but damn, I am tired of seeing large installation/sculptural works done in unfinished wood. Sure sometimes it’s fresh wood right out of Home Depot (Maya Lin’s 2” x 4”s) but often it’s just a mix-match of whatever wood the artist seems to come across when poking around dark alleys. How many wood-based installations have you seen recently, in the vein of Trimble, where a large, often organic form, is created from several cut pieces of unfinished wood? If not that large organic form, then a jagged, harsh treatment- in the form of a wall sculpture- seems to be the other choice for this material. It’s getting old fast folks.

I swear its like artists can’t see a bunch of discarded material and not try to use it in some new way. Which is great- recycle, re-use, free, all that’s just when the material is so essential to your work such a big part of the meaning of the work, shouldn’t more attention be paid to it? I have several friends who work with recycled material that will probably give me a hard time about this…I’m just saying do it with purpose.

Wood aside, the Biennial was an interesting show. There were a few strong works, oddly I was more drawn to small, crafty pieces in this show. Rick Araluce’s little miniature room sculptures are delightful. There is so much narrative wit in these pieces I nearly giggled. Sarah Hood’s jewelry is well done as always. I’m not sure it’s. Michael Brophy’s watercolors (or gouache maybe) have a quiet power about them. I did not care for the hanging of his work though. 2 different series where kind of mix-matched in a square format on the wall, like 25 works hanging 5 x 5, a grid pattern. This felt strange because one series was about the burning studio, and the other were these sweet landscapes…I suppose I kind of get why it was hung together..but I had the thought that perhaps-it was hung this way to save space. Overall the hanging of the show was not good. Awkward and crowded, the large back wall was hung terribly. The lighting was lousy. That gallery’s ceilings are just too high for good lighting in this show. Distracted from the work.

And another thing about the curation-I am on such a rant today, apologies to all-why was Denzil Hurley’s work included for a 2nd straight time? I suppose I don’t really understand much about Biennials, but I was under the impression that it had something to do with getting a sense of what was happening in a particular region, in that particular time. Very contemporary and very local. Denzil Hurley was included twice in a row, and the thing is, for the same series of work. The same 2 series I should say. I don’t know much about the man’s process, but this work looks very 1975 to me. It’s minimal, processed-based and BORING. I can’t say much for Robert Jones either.

However, props to Zhi Lin, Victor Maldonado, and Chang-Ae Song for strong works.

Photography was given a surprising amount of wall space, considering how uninspired much of the work was. Michael Kenna’s work was elegant, but haven’t we see a lot of these dark object (tree, post, fence, power line, etc) in snow shots before? Yes we have. And the interior rooms of…some other photographer, the name escapes me…they are run-of-the-mill. Dark rooms with shafts of light, or with dramatic light sources. Staged. How…blah. The only work that stands out is Isaac Layman’s self portraits. And they aren’t even that good, they just happen to be the only figural work I recall seeing in the entire show.

NW artists seem to be focused on landscape and form these days (like me!)….what happened to all the sad clowns of yesteryear?

TAM Biennial: 2.5 Molos

No comments: