Genius Awards

Arts Organization Shortlist

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Genius Awards

CRAWL SPACE

"We know going into every show that we could screw it up," says the installation artist Chad Wentzel, one of the six members of the artist-run Crawl Space. Despite being hidden behind a sweet picket fence and a quaint bunch of trees, the gallery has that edge, that magical, surprising quality that arrives once in a while when a crew of creative people brings out the best in each other. It's three years old and located on Capitol Hill, miles from art's downtown center. It just got white walls in January; before that, they were concrete and art would fall down because it couldn't be anchored right. Spaces like this are lucky to survive; any stretch of good shows is cause for celebration. This year at Crawl Space definitely qualifies, having swung wildly in style and medium while being consistently thoughtful. The members have shown themselves to be not only interesting artists, but interesting curators. Painter Brad Biancardi presented the Non-Non-Referential Painting group show, followed by his own chilly government-building schematics in Piss President. Anne Mathern surveyed video artists, and presented her own evocative photography, sculpture, and sound. Even solo shows by nonmembers have been don't-misses, from Shawn Patrick Landis's collapsing furniture to Wyndel Hunt's recent stone-faced black drawings and a black-humored "artist lecture" video. JEN GRAVES

LAWRIMORE PROJECT

The hype about Scott Lawrimore's new contemporary gallery in the International District was not misplaced. The space itself, in the former Popich Sign Co. building, is grand and hot, with stylish separate rooms for large-scale sculpture, white-box contemplation, video presentation, and cozy socialization, and a concrete garden outside with a view of the old Frye meatpacking plant. Lawrimore's office is more or less a mobile home on cinder blocks with a Hello Kitty–pink window box, and it's a telling sign of the dealer's intention to make a mark: By offering an unusual, almost mini-museum-like space, he wants to attract national artists and mix them with local talent. His opening show was a daredevil move, handing over the largest room to an installation built by SuttonBeresCuller in secret, without the dealer's knowledge, inside a big box. The result was a semioperational Chinese restaurant that provoked responses in all directions. Despite his strong inclination toward Duchampian-line conceptualism—in a manifesto about presenting art in hotel rooms, he recently quipped, "The visual arts are, unfortunately, still quite visual"—Lawrimore hasn't suffered at the till. Sales have been brisk at LP, proving once and for all that this is a city where ideas, not just objects, have value. JEN GRAVES

Listen in as Jen Graves talks to Scott Lawrimore

THE MOISTURE FESTIVAL

The worst thing about the Moisture Festival is its name. At best, it sounds hippie-dippie; at worst, it sounds like an armpit convention. Everything else about the annual festival, held in a converted warehouse attached to the Hale's brewery, is right. It brings together the best vaudeville and circus talent from Seattle (Circus Contraption, Baby Gramps, Fyodor Karamazov, et al.) and beyond (Berlin, England, etc.). Their legendary final performances, where all the acts from that year's festival play one after the other, run for hours. With acrobats, jugglers, a big band, clowns, and beer, the Moisture Festival is new, old-fashioned varieté with all the corniness, sexiness, and unexpected brilliance that implies. BRENDAN KILEY

WASHINGTON ENSEMBLE THEATRE

If all the playhouses in the city were burning to the ground, I would grab a bucket of water and haul ass to the Washington Ensemble Theatre. Their specter dominated this year's Genius Summit Meetings. (One of their founding members took the theater award this year; another is on the theater shortlist.) This group of friends and coconspirators began as a build-a-hypothetical-theater-company assignment for the University of Washington's graduate drama program. The founding family lost a few members, gained a few members, and, since 2004, has created some of—no, the most exciting theater in Seattle: Finer Noble Gases, Swimming in the Shallows, Crave. They have been on this shortlist two years running. We have great expectations. BRENDAN KILEY

 

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