- Maikoyo Alley-Barnes working on his sculpture on opening night. 'Did you know the East Precinct used to be a house of taxidermy?'
This enveloped arrived at the gallery, in the mail, shortly after the show opened, and the return address is the East Precinct of the Seattle Police Department. It is tacked to a part of the wall that also has other documents attached to it—these other documents are from a 2006 trial, in which the City of Seattle settled with the defendant Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes after four police officers brutally beat him one night on the street just across from where this gallery now operates, on Pike.
The works by Curtis and Royal are touching acts of parenting as much as artmaking, and To Serve and Protect is a public ritual—Alley-Barnes calls it a ritual exorcism—as much as an art show.
"We're trying to use this shit [art] for what it's really for," Alley-Barnes said in a conversation at the gallery one afternoon after the opening.
What Alley-Barnes means by "using this shit for what it's really for" is sort of like what Claes Oldenburg, in an early, potent mindset, meant when he said, famously, "I am for an art that is political-erotical-mystical, that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum."
"This shit's really for healing," Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes said. "These objects, they are to fix things, they are to discuss, they're not just for esoterica or platitudes."
None of the 15 artists showed each other what they were making before the exhibition opened, and they didn't show Alley-Barnes, either. He provided them with images and text from the incident as they requested it, but otherwise had no idea what was coming. He has been working on his totems in the gallery as the show has been open, as if building himself continuously in front of an audience in a way that's restorative rather than abusive. By the end of the show, May 19, his sculptures will be finished, and he'll have been in there, talking to people and simply receiving them, along with several of the other artists, who also sit in the gallery and are available for conversations.
Larson's tattered old boxing glove with the words "GET OFF OF ME" delicately sewn onto it is another highlight—both a wish for other men and other futures, and an acknowledgement of the exhaustion built into the black male future as it's constructed here and now.
- This giant poster went up the morning of the opening on 11th and Pike, on the same block as the East Precinct. Maikoyo Alley-Barnes was as surprised as anyone else to see his face there. It was the work of his friends.
But the greatest strength of the show is its unity of purpose, its determination to speak as a whole, and to speak with and to the viewers, the various artmakers, the neighborhood, and history.
In this room, for this moment, whatever's inside the envelope from the East Precinct has the right to remain silent.