Patrick Holderfield James Harris Gallery, 309A Third Ave S, 903-6220

Through Feb 14.

Patrick HolderFIeld's new installation--two sculptures and a handful of drawings--is called Doubt has a place (the raft), and although I perhaps would have edited out the parenthetical remark, I love the way he has, with his usual deftness, made a hybrid out of unhybridable things, in this case, an emotion and a physical location, a strangely engaging example of art's special, spatial logic.

There is nothing about this show that is easy, although there is plenty of visceral and sophisticated pleasure: an explosion of yellow boards coming through the gallery walls above an open white box structure which seems to be part of the wall and contains worn old wooden planks and drips something that looks like bloody goo and plastic, with phantom boards traced on the wall, as though mapping the trajectory of the actual boards, or the dream of a trajectory, or a theory about it; on the opposite wall is a black tiled sweep of a shape, a slide-like curve that absorbs light rather than reflecting it, that has a curious little bit of electronic junk, looking more than a little like a surveillance satellite with wires and fuses and duct tape, poking out the bottom.

The "doubt" of the show's title is personal, historical, anecdotal, interpretive; the two quite polar sculptures are the result of a connection made in the artist's mind between the raft in Théodore Géricault's Raft of the Medusa (which carries the desperate, silly, and cannibalizing survivors of a wreck off the coast of Africa) and outer space. It's not an obvious connection, but one that surfs blithely along a continuum of intuition and formal issues, having something to do with instability and boundaries but really making more sense physically than logically; a contrast of explosion and containment, of outward and inward motion, as well as two large, lonely, devouring spaces--the sea and outer space--where you might never know where you are.

You could also see the sculptures as two sides of an art problem. The yellow boards exploding out of a white box expose minimalism's gooey human core, while the tiled bit of space represents a colder, self-protective variety--a more paranoid minimalism.

Or maybe not. The sculptures taken together with a series of drawings can also be seen as an elegant gloss on chaos and order and the conceptual (as well as physical) pull between the two. Holderfield's drawings are gravities of either generation or destruction, with dense and colorful centers (one looks like a blurred landscape) either spitting out or pulling in a whirl of disembodied objects. In this catalog of everything, a gesture has the same valence as an object (which is sort of present in the paintings of Julie Mehretu), so that it's not unusual to see something that looks like a garlic press next to a carnivorous black pool next to a sweep of lines that seems to indicate motion. You might see it as a history of painting emerging from a big bang, or else disappearing into a black (or blue, or green) hole, or a vortex that creates things that are already broken or gathers up the pieces right before everything disappears.

The whole thing has a hallucinatory quality, like a mirage seen at a distance by a starving shipwreck survivor. Like much of Holderfield's previous work, there is a perceptual game embedded there, although the artist is less present here than he has been in the past. In his last show, there were little jokes for the viewer, little trails of bread crumbs to tempt you toward interpretation; here he's more opaque, the work more challenging, less neatly tied up, a proposal rather than a conclusion.

The artist provides a series of quotes about Géricault's raft, a speculative drawing of the raft, some photographs of satellites, but it's a bit of a red herring, driving you back into the work. Which means that unlike much of what you'll see in Pioneer Square this month, or ever, you'll want to spend plenty of time in among the splintered boards and the wreckage, waiting for the mirage to appear.

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