I sometimes get tired of seeing the same artists over and over again. And then there's Alex Schweder. In the eight months since his return from a year abroad for the Rome Prize, Schweder has shown four times: two installations at Howard House, one of which traveled to Aqua Art Miami, a third in the Tacoma Art Museum's current biennial—a casting of his bathroom in packing peanuts using his spit as adhesive—and, now, at Suyama Space.
Undeniably, Schweder is a dazzling artist. But he has my loyalty because his work is both basic, in the sense that bodies are basic, and quite difficult. It is formal, architectural, and intellectual, and yet it is also bilious, digestive, dizzying, and abject. If there is a model in Seattle for a postmedium, post-postmodern artist actively working from a set of convictions that could sustain an entire career, then it is Alex Schweder.
The action of A Sac of Rooms Three Times a Day at Suyama Space happens at mealtimes (9 am, 12:30 pm, 4 pm) and takes about an hour. In its latent state, a 21-by-28-by-9-foot clear vinyl sac rests on the wood floor, puddled like a memory of mercury, and with other sacs inside it. The exterior sac is modeled after a 500-foot bungalow. But the clear sacs inside (shaped as rooms, a staircase, fireplace, toilet, and sink) are modeled after a larger, 800-foot bungalow. As the whole inflates, the innards push against each other and the skin uncomfortably, resembling distended organs. The sculpture becomes a quivering apparition with stitches, and also a complex architectural drawing in thin air. It is kin to Do-Ho Suh's sewn structures, but unenterable, and it's introspective and fat, like Whiting Tennis's cow trailer or Erwin Wurm's talking house, but as basal and involuntary as a fish or a dream.