In Art News
Penises Done Right, Penises Done Wrong
I winced my way through the press preview for Seattle Art Museum's Reclaimed: Nature and Place Through Contemporary Eyes as the curator, Marisa Sanchez, described how the artworks displayed "man's place in nature," "the role of man in the landscape," "man's intervention," etc. Really? Then I looked at the checklist: 14 male artists, three female artists. Man's role in the museum: secure. Add injury to insult: The show is dull. It's not that the artists are dull, they're just not well served by this hashed-together exhibition that never finds a center. If there is a center, it's that most of the works either deal with or are made of wood. (Which is one of the more irritating Northwest-art clichés.) I would like to rename this show Afternoon Wood.
And I would like to recommend some better afternoon wood for your consideration: Anna Hepler's Bloom, at Suyama Space downtown. It is a burst of pink plastic erections. They hang in a huge cluster from the ceiling, like grapes, until, every 15 minutes, they are inflated and they rise to attention around a central sphere of plastic, getting so big and so fat that they push your body aside if you're standing close. All blown-up and bothered, the droopy grape form becomes a ball/blossom the artist refers to as both a flower and a firework. And as the limbs rise into the light, the color of the plastic brightens and the whole penis chandelier excites. When the deflation comes, it brings a sizzling sound. Colored threads dangle from the ends of the limbs, ejaculations from the process of sewing these nearly 1,000 crinkly bags together.
Bloom also includes a two-sided, 16-by-16-foot woodcut print of this same red form in 2-D (made using wooden spoons as the printing tool), hanging at one end of the gallery like a distant relative, giving the impression that forms and entities aren't fixed but constantly breathing and relating. Relatives of Bloom include Seattle artist Susan Robb's forest of black plastic bags that inflate and fly in the sun, called Toobs; A Sac of Rooms Three Times a Day by former Seattle (now Berlin) artist Alex Schweder La, a house made of transparent stitched plastic that inflates at mealtimes (created for Suyama in 2007); New York artist Elena del Rivero's oversize dish towels made of sewn-together papers, recently hanging from the ceiling at Lawrimore Project; and the saggy pantyhose sculptures of Senga Nengudi or Lygia Clark's wearable clusters and inflated plastic bags, from the 1960s and '70s.
Hepler lives in Portland, Maine, on the other American ocean, known for its "plastic soup" versus the Pacific's "garbage patch" of plastic. Bloom, among other landscape propositions, presents a choking hazard.