Things are looking up for new art in New York, with last week's announcement that the stuffy Museum of Modern Art has created an associate-director position devoted to contemporary art and filled it with golden girl Kathy Halbreich, who spent the last 16 years making the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis a trendsetter. At the same time, Seattle Art Museum had a thrill of its own to announce: The winner of this year's venerable Betty Bowen Award is a wild-card artist named Oscar Tuazon who splits his time between Tacoma (the namesake of his 1-month-old daughter) and Paris, France. His main gallery is in Norway.
Around here, he's an unknown. He's never showed in Seattle or Tacoma, only in Vancouver, where Eric Fredericksen curated a two-person show with Tuazon and Eli Hansen called VOluntary Non vUlnerable earlier this year. I missed that show, but Seattle Art Museum modern and contemporary curator Michael Darling didn't, and he's on the Betty Bowen committee. The panel chose Tuazon out of 462 applicants from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.
Tuazon was born in Seattle in 1975. Matthew Stadler knew him as a kid. Stadler introduced him to Fredericksen, to Darling, and so it goes. But Tuazon's connections go way beyond the Northwest. He had a piece in the Wrong Gallery's 2006 Whitney Biennial installation Down by Law. In a publication for Documenta 12 this past summer, he edited Metronome #10, "an instruction manual for artists who wish to live and work portably." Tuazon, Clémentine Deliss, and two members of Edinburgh's Future Academy produced it on the road, in an RV, using a manual typewriter. Downloadable for free online, Metronome #10 was inspired by the hippie survivalist zine Dwelling Portably, which is published out of Philomath, Oregon. As part of the project the artists also built a "hill-lodge" dug out of a mud bank in Philomath.
That's not all. Tuazon is working on a project with performance-art hero Vito Acconci. The project, which Tuazon and Acconci have entered into the "Positions" category of Art Basel, hoping to get in next spring, is a large-scale architectural model called Theoretical Gallery, based on a late-'90s Acconci design for a New York gallery space. "I want to bring it back as a kind of fragmented, always-unrealizable model... haunting the art fair with this kind of perpetually deferred ideal of the exhibition space as a void, a purely abstract space," Tuazon wrote in an e-mail last week.
Tuazon himself is a pure abstraction to most Northwesterners, but not for long. At least two Seattle dealers—Billy Howard and Scott Lawrimore—have been in talks about possibly showing his work. And did I mention he's also one of 28 finalists for the Portland Art Museum's 2008 Contemporary Northwest Art Awards?
Ed. note: The title of the Vancouver show by Tuazon and Eli Hansen was misidentified as "Crystal Math" in the print version of this article. "Crystal Math" is the name of one of the works that was in the show, and it was purchased by Seattle Art Museum.