Thursday, October 9, 2008

2001 - Notice of Proposed Land Use Action

Title: Notice of Proposed Land Use Action
Dates: May 18 – July 8, 2001
Location: Consolidated Works, Seattle, WA
Artists: Dan Corson (Seattle), Patrick Holderfield (Seattle), Shannon Kennedy (New York), Bret Marion (Seattle), Jennifer McNeely (Seattle), Brad Miller (Seattle), Jesse Paul Miller (Seattle), David Nechak (Seattle), Matthew Picton (Ashland, OR), Susan Robb (Seattle)

Curatorial Statement
In August of 1998 Consolidated Works moved into an empty 30,000 sq. ft. warehouse at 410 Terry Ave. N. to launch Seattle’s only multi-disciplinary contemporary art center. At the time we had a six month lease in our hands and we were thrilled to inhabit such a vast space that perfectly suited our needs: clear-span in the theater and cinema, and 35 ft. ceilings in the 4,000 sq. ft. gallery. Much to our surprise six months has turned into two years. The Negative Space series marks the final round of programming for Consolidated Works at 410 Terry Ave. N. as the wrecking ball will strike in the early Fall.

This architecturally insignificant wooden structure has remained active for 72 years, originally housing Rich Lumber, and more recently, Seattle Auto Glass, storage for Sur La Table and a recumbent bicycle manufacturer. Consolidated Works sits firmly in the middle of one of Seattle’s enduring industrial areas that is currently being carefully molded into a more diverse urban neighborhood. There are Notice of Proposed Land Use Action signs on every other building in the Cascade area, including ours, invoking both wariness and anticipation in those invested in urban development. The title of the show references not just the end of our time in this building, but the notice of something new on the horizon for Consolidated Works.

Ten regional and national artists were invited to create new works for Notice of Proposed Land Use Action considering our warehouse’s past, present and imminent demise. Some of the artists explored the literal negative space that will be left when our building is gone. Others dealt with the negative space of history, the businesses the structure housed and all the people that have crossed the threshold. Each artist’s work is radically different in materials and presentation, but all were concerned with the investment we have made in the Seattle arts community and the return investment of artists in Consolidated Works.

New York artist Shannon Kennedy uses endoscopic video equipment, similar to what is used to view the inside of the body, to shoot images of the most hidden parts of buildings. Kennedy came to Consolidated Works in January and spent 4 days in residence documenting what would be thought of as the guts of 410 Terry Ave. N.. The resulting video is a very fast journey through a completely magical landscape of beads of Styrofoam as large as balloons, feathery strands of fiberglass insulation, and expansive terrains of rusted metal. Seattle’s Susan Robb also deals with enlarging tiny environments. Robb identified the corners where dust accumulates and cracks where tiny objects get lost and then added her own materials, most notably Play-Do, to create installations usually measuring no more than three inches across. The resulting photographs burst with color and life as they gently glide in and out of focus.

To Seattle’s Patrick Holderfield it is important to remember that people have been touched by the presence of this structure. Holderfield has been working on a series entitled Dehiscence (the expulsion of materials from a container) since 1997,and has created his largest work to date for this exhibition. Instead of imbuing objects with foam, Holderfield decided to make the structure itself the container to interject a human or organic presence in the building. “The building is going to be demolished and this biological element is seeping out representing the human activity that took place during its history.” Responding to this seductive mass by recognizing both its beauty and its grotesqueness is precisely the immediate human response Holderfield is after.

Jennifer McNeely’s labor of love for this exhibition consists of 72 carefully wrapped and stitched pieces of drywall, one for each year of this structures past. The bundled objects are presented wrapped in plastic with accompanying tags that remain blank. The grid of pink, almost fleshy packages are meticulously laid out and made available for examination as if they are being prepared to enter deep archival storage with other “artifacts” from this significant site. This piece allows one to imagine that the past is not lost, and that when it is lovingly recognized we can carry it into the future with us.

Matthew Picton, a recent British transplant living in Oregon, spent a week in March on the roof of Consolidated Works drawing the details of a second story façade onto plastic sheeting. This sheeting was then taken back to his studio where Picton spent the next month in an oxygen supplied suit recreating the drawing in layers of acrylic glue. The glue shrinks and buckles as it dries, skewing the shapes giving them a watery appearance. Event though the final piece is sculptural, when combined with the shadow cast on the wall, the work still reads like a drawing. Because the work in true to scale it has a certain immediacy, but the etherealness of the medium invokes the past.

Another artist who worked directly with the structure in an intimate fashion is Seattle’s Jesse Paul Miller. Renowned as both a sculptor and painter, many of Miller’s close friends also know that Jesse draws – and draws – and draws… The quick sketches on past Consolidated Works’ promotional materials exude an almost childlike freedom and joy in lines that chop and glide and are even crossed out when a different line suits the situation better. Out of the 56 only a handful are recognizable locations, as Miller favored capturing only fragments of a chosen area. Miller has permanently marked the records of our activities here with the structure in which it all occurred.

Sculptor and installation artist David Nechak’s piece Looking Back provides the viewer with a new perception of the gallery environment, the other pieces in the show, and their own presence in the room. The convex mirrors are both vehicles for reflection and emotionally work to trigger feelings of surveillance, as if the building is watching the viewer.

Dan Corson and Bret Marion are most clearly dealing with the demolition of 410 Terry Ave. N. Corson’s piece provides an opportunity to participate in the destruction process knocking “wrecking balls” against a gallery wall. The pay off is a loud crashing sound effect. It is pure joy in the boyhood fantasy sense, and an ominous reminder that this structure will come down to the ground. Marion has chosen to add a dream to that blatant reminder by adding a paragraph at the bottom of a reproduction of our Notice of Proposed Land Use Action Sign that poetically references life on the frontier. We are moving forward, dreaming of the next phase for Consolidated Works and how the new structures on this land will shape the neighborhood. In a sense we are involved in pioneering a new urban community, and Marion piece lays the foundation for that forward momentum.

There is an installation in this exhibit that will take place after we move to our new location. Brad Miller has created a piece of conceptual minimalism that in its simplicity and purity captures the idea that tears have been shed here, an investment of great proportion has happened, and we will take the knowledge of that with us to the new space. The three buckets of gallery paint containing a single tear will be used to cover the walls in our new home. The title of the piece, Dulcinea, references Don Quixote’s love interest that he perceives to be a princess, but is really a prostitute. We dream and we don’t ask permission to do so. Brad notes that installation artists create works expecting nothing in return, other than the privilege to do it.

I am terribly proud of the efforts of the ten artists in this show and feel that they have captured in their diverse works a range of historical, emotional and physical elements related to Consolidated Works, the presentation of visual art, and our occupation of 410 Terry Ave. N.