Nonstop for the last three days, some little part of me has been occupied by Timea Tihanyi's first solo show in Seattle, at Gallery 4Culture. The gallery is dimly lit and what you encounter first is a single-channel video of blurry, flashing landscapes, to the noise (through headphones) of dull, regular beats. It sounds like whoever is holding the camera is running.
A little farther in, the main room of the gallery has been turned into an enclosure marked by no-trespassing signs. One, straight ahead, is a rusty old sign that reads "POSTED. Private Property." Next to it is a chain-link fence. But both the sign and the fence are made of hot-pink felt, not just cut out but sewn precisely and in layers so that even the tiniest bits of felt are sturdy as well as soft.
Past the fence is the outdoors—have we already been trespassing?—in the form of a forest landscape on the walls. The landscape is made of squares of thin, occasionally rustling handmade paper and cut black felt. Projected across the forest is serene video of a snowfall. The serenity is interrupted when you cross the threshold marked by the chain-link fence; you trigger a few seconds of the running video you've already seen, and then the snowfall returns. Also hanging in this outdoors area is a row of 12 identical white cast-paper no-trespassing signs, the bright-pink message bleached.
Whenever I think of Tihanyi, who graduated with an MFA from the UW ceramics program in 2003 but 10 years earlier earned a medical degree in her home country of Hungary, I think of the first pieces of hers I saw, at Davidson Contemporary. They're portraits in cut felt based on historical photographs of the first use of ether—which are then suspended in bubbly, brown-yellowy latex. It's an allegory of the body's state during anesthesia.
At the heart of her enterprise is the question of penetration, and the desire to gain access to knowledge through touch. Her new show (whose title, The Unexpected Momentum of Small Things in a Space Occupied by Other Small [and Relatively Large] Objects, I won't pretend to understand) is the finest, freshest distillation of her project I've seen. I still feel it in my fingertips.
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On February 27, 4Culture will select an artist to build an installation on the exterior of the building that houses Gallery 4Culture—most likely right out there on the roof, for all the city to see. The finalists are Seattle's John Grade and Lead Pencil Studio, and Berlin-based Jeppe Hein. The preliminary budget for the project is $145,000.