Layoffs, Missing Persons, and Hot Wheels
CoCA's First International Survey
The Center on Contemporary Art's 22nd Annual, featuring artworks in all mediums by 16 artists from around the world (including Seattle), is as crowded as a Turkish market—but it's tucked away inside a hushed, sleek, half-abandoned luxury-home-decor mall defined by metal and glass. The mall is called Seattle Design Center. It contains showrooms for interior decorating professionals, but their profession is at a recessionary standstill, so people sit alone in their showrooms waiting for customers who never come. It's an eerily simpatico setting for the short capitalist horror film in the back of CoCA's small adapted showroom, Sequence Error, by Greek artist George Drivas. In the film, employees inside a bright, bare modernist office building are laid off one by one, until the primly dressed woman impassively delivering the layoffs is let go in her turn. As a writer in art magazine Frieze pointed out when the video was seen in Europe, it's like the old saying: When the Nazis came...
CoCA's annual juried exhibition began 22 years ago as a regional survey, eventually expanded to allow artists from across the United States, and now this year broadened to accept international submissions, which came in from 14 countries and 21 states. It's an exceptional showing, facilitated by both the prestige and intelligence of this year's juror, artist Gary Hill. Hill's post-'60s sensibility, his predilections for philosophy and multimedia, and his European connections all are apparent.
The work is strong and sometimes difficult: A teeny landscape painted on the edge of a little piece of wood that looks like a tongue depressor by Sara Overton. Seattle artist Sean Johnson's enactments of an imminent disaster and/or a scattering (a china cabinet barely taped to the wall, a body made of Hot Wheels cars lined up on the floor). Conny Blom's homage to John Cage with 4 minutes and 33 seconds of sound lifted from between recorded tracks (ask the gallery to turn this way up). Julia Oldham's Antimatter Twin video, a physics romance featuring the artist in both roles. Bjoern Drenkwitz's video portrait of a continuous but disjointed world, with the movements of the land, sea, and sky playing at three different speeds. Ida Röden's altered photographs incorporating the faces of missing persons in family-reunion photographs, each face a disfigured composite of several lost faces. Which is not to say there aren't funny, juicy, colorful paintings. They're by a French artist named Jeremie Baldocchi. The world according to Gary is full and strange.
This article has been updated since its original publication.