Ornament, watercolor on paper, 2013, by Allyce Wood. She based the image on a funghal harvest.
  • Courtesy of the artist
  • Ornament, watercolor on paper, 2013, by Allyce Wood. She based the image on a "funghal harvest."

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In Allyce Wood's new drawings, the world has run dry. Everything seems like a husk of itself. Harvests are fibrous and striated, like precise medical drawings of muscles, tendons, bones. Dead and hollow pieces of wood are garlanded by parched leaves. Braids and nests have withered. Each drawing is so exactly beautiful as to be softly painful; each is a pang of self-conscious nostalgia for a lost world where these things are more vibrantly alive. Though small, the show at SOIL, called Latent Utility: Present But Not Active Worth, feels like a major step forward for the young Seattle artist.

It includes nine pieces. (They are modestly priced—all but one between $180 to $550.) Ornament, above, is based on Wood's imagining of how a rope of mushrooms might be grown from slimy microbial starts. She hangs her pretty fiction on the ghost ribbons behind it.

Wood graduated from Cornish in 2010 and has been active on the scene since, her dense drawings of undergrowth popping up in group and solo shows at Ghost, SOIL, LxWxH, Cullom, NEPO. She'd restricted her palette to black ink on white paper for a while—her plants aggressively drained of color. (Overgrown Restraint, a drawing of a cluster of tendrils outgrowing its fences, is reminiscent of the older style, but with more shading.) She deliberately broke into romantic shadow and color for Latent Utility to up the emotional ante, and it worked. The pieces are quietly magnetic. Some of them are so tender yet precise as to bring to mind an artist like Dürer.

Dried, a little 6-by-8-inch watercolor on rag, is such a simple and innocently hued parable that it could be from a spiritual manuscript. What are the circumstances of this little stand of dried growths tied up like old-timey hobo bindles under a stormy sky? It somehow feels like it has something to teach, but the lesson is unknown, hiding out among the rest of this showful of shadows.

Dried, 2013.
  • Courtesy of the artist
  • Dried, 2013.