Matt Sellars

Platform Gallery

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Through March 25.

The three toy-sized, solid-wood barns in the window at Platform Gallery are strong, silent types, slumping toward each other in their old age. The sweeping grains of their neutral, nude wood—poplar planks stacked, glued together, and hand-sanded smooth—look like wind. These are tender shapes. In their simple, economic way, they are an homage to the fading tradition of hand-powered masculine labor.

Sellars grew up in Spokane, where he was impressed by the outmoded dignity and decrepitude of the small American farm. (His mother, Beth Sellars of Suyama Space, was then curator of the Cheney Cowles Museum in Spokane.) He is a minimalist but not in the classic, strictly formal sense. Like fellow NW artists Ed Wicklander and Dan Webb, he incorporates narrative and theory into his work with wood. As a quiet, steady presence on the gallery scene since graduating from Cornish in 1992, Sellars works in series, simplifying and shrinking forms until they look like toys but function as totems.

His Platform Gallery show is a grouping of utilitarian objects: five barns, eight grain silos, and a power-line insulator. The centerpiece is an exquisitely built barn with wood slats missing and light streaming in, suspended several feet in the air. Viewers can stand with head and shoulders in the airy barn, like returning to a surprisingly small childhood space as a gangly adult. On the floor, eight precise, congruent silos arranged in a row of ascending size look like machines made by machines, though they were sanded by hand. Their title explains their stalwart pose: Guarantees Against Uncertainties of the Future. Like the insulator coil and the barns, they act as signposts of the past, present, and future—memorial markers, guards, and generators—of a masculine practice of survival. JEN GRAVES

Lauren Grossman's Not Consumed

Howard House

Through April 1.

Lauren Grossman's continued mining of Biblical themes is a head-on engagement—in metals and glass, fake flowers and flame—with the pleasures and perils of the literal.

Pleasure: Lot's wife transformed into a giant salt grinder, her famously fatal last glance at Gomorrah ambiguously reconfigured as a destructive/productive act of turning. Grossman's Wife reclaims her curiosity by piquing ours. She is not consumed.

At their best, Grossman's face-value appropriations of the Bible's most extravagant imagery are both funny and fluid, opening it up for us to step inside. Even at her most mischievous—producing "tongues of flame" powered by gas jets (exposed canister and all; a signature effect) or disporting her chromed brass "lamb of god" in various unholy ways—she achieves results that are too fertile for association to be merely wry. When Grossman honors the strangeness of her source material, she allows it to retain its power. Kitsch is left behind. No one's looking back.

Peril: Words from the Song of Songs cast in iron and composed into a series of wall-mounted bird forms, which in turn contain or emit an object or material pertaining to a given image from the poem. Song Birds. Thud.

Overdetermined things with wings aside, Not Consumed is often striking for its technical polish. Grossman took full advantage of her recent residency at Kohler to produce a body of work that is impeccably cast and finished. It's also impossible not to appreciate the fine-tuned installation choices made here, especially in the front gallery, where an underlying and appropriately sacral formality buttresses the contents' craziness.

And that's the trump card. These works couldn't be more at home in the secular sacristy called Howard House. For them, the white box really is the perfect context. PETER GAUCYS

Winter Series

Consolidated Works

Through March 12.

Whither ConWorks? That was my big question about artistic director Corey Pearlstein's opening last week—his first effort at restarting a once-important arts venue that has been idling since the board ousted its founding director last year. But anyone hoping to divine the future of visual art at ConWorks will be disappointed. Pearlstein has no curatorial experience and no staff curator. It shows, in the scattered, largely pre-packaged display, though there are successes.

Pearlstein curated two spaces flanking the front entry, and both installations are flops. Things go better when he delegates to contracted curators. Dan Bartell imported Negativlandland, a 25-year retrospective of the anti-corporate collective Negativland that opened last year in New York. It is a sprawling playland of sharply funny and socially critical video, installation, music, and sculpture made almost entirely of borrowed material. Longtime fans will get their Negativland-prank fix, but there are also gently affecting photographs of wrecked cars paired with personal notes taken from the junkers.

Bartell also brought in Gary Hill's 2001 video installation Accordions, which is the star of the show. It commands every inch of ConWorks' cavernous, L-shaped main gallery, where split-second images shot in an Algerian neighborhood flash intermittently around the room on five video channels projected onto five walls, prompting the viewer to jump and jerk to keep up. Like Hill's strobing, punishing video self-portrait shown at the Wright Space a few years ago, Accordions is mesmerizing and manipulative.

Luara Moore, a second contracted curator, selected work by local Alan Hurley—big, swanky paintings of sparring animals on rococo patterns—but the space she was given is a corridor Pearlstein plans to devote to large-scale murals and graffiti. He may want to reconsider; the area is way too narrow for that project.

Pearlstein says he plans to hire a curator in time for the September series. Maybe we'll hear what the new voice of ConWorks art sounds like then. JEN GRAVES