Arts Seattle Art Museum, You Thrill Me
posted by September 26 at 16:42 PMon
This year, Seattle Art Museum’s Betty Bowen Award will go to a wild-card artist: Oscar Tuazon. Tuazon is based in Tacoma. He hasn’t shown in Seattle. He’s young. He’s promising. He’s getting the $11,000 prize.
I’m thrilled. I’m thrilled to be surprised by an announcement that in past years has often been predictable and staid. I’m thrilled that this is a Tacoma-based artist (and that he also appears to be Paris-based: Tacoma and Paris, sitting in a tree …). And I’m thrilled insofar as I feel the way I feel during a thriller: I’m not entirely sure what’s going to happen.
I’ve never seen Tuazon’s work in person. (It will be on display at SAM soon, and for the entire year, thanks to the award.) Earlier this year, a show of works by Tuazon and Eli Hanson titled VOluntary Non vUlnerable (VONU) was curated by Eric Fredericksen (Eric, how did you come to find these two again?) at Bodgers and Kludgers Cooperative Art Parlor in Vancouver. I seem to remember the emailed images from the show having something to do with meth, and tiny architecture. Then, this spring, Tuazon had a solo show, I’d Rather Be Gone, at Standard in Oslo, Norway.
Since Tuazon is an unknown, I’ll attach the entire press release from the Standard show:
STANDARD (OSLO) is proud to present its first exhibition of objects and photographic works by Paris-based artist Oscar Tuazon. “I’d Rather Be Gone” continues the artist’s yearlong examination on how personal liberty can be embodied in architecture. Drawing on the early building experiments of the hippy commune Drop City as well as current practices in ‘dwelling portably,’ Tuazon’s work questions the conditions for sustainability and self-suffiency.
“When I attended Deep Springs College in the mid-90s, the Greyhound would stop at an intersection in the middle of the desert, 50 miles from the college. You had to wait there until someone drove out to get you, which sometimes took a few hours. The only other thing at that intersection was a whorehouse in a doublewide. (In Nevada, prostitution is legal.) On hot days, the Madame of the house would sometimes invite us inside and offer us a cold drink. The only way in and out of the college is through the whorehouse.” Tuazon’s works and writings continuously return to the ideal of the bare minimum [think of Documenta’s question this year, taken from a philosopher whose name I’m forgetting now: “What is bare life?”]—put forward by the writer Henry David Thoreau in the novel “Walden” (1854)—and thus also return to the question of whether isolation from civil society may gain a more objective understanding of it.
Since graduating from Whitney ISP Tuazon has produced a series of sculptures composed of urban debris: cardboard boxes, wooden pallets, printing plates, OSB boards from building sites, or melanin boards from defunct kitchens—materials gathered from the area of his Paris studio or near the various venues of his exhibitions. In an initial phase these sculptural works would take forms of geodesic domes and draw on such typologies as indigenous building techniques, DIY architecture, as well as a more determined dedication to structural clarity, advocated by the engineer R. Buckminster Fuller. More recently the works have taken on the character of full-scale building prototypes, such as the work “1:1” at the center of the show.
This assemblage of melanin boards and wooden pallets is constructed to serve as a corner of the house Tuazon planning to erect near Portland, Oregon. Approaching the building project through a series of trial products rather than drawings, the exhibition context becomes a chance to test rather than portray this situation. At the same time Tuazon exposes the shortcomings of the works as prototypes, which continuously seem to be balancing between actual functionality and a possible transcendent materiality as sculptures. Tuazon draws attention to the disjuncture of forcing one space (the un-built house) onto another space (the gallery), and underscores the impossibility of really modelling something accurately in the context of an exhibition. Adding to these sculptures are four folded and framed photographs, rendering tableaux of temporary architecture from the woods of Portland. The photographs become a surface for exploring another kind of space, while being folded also modulating the distances within the image, between one space and another.
Oscar Tuazon (b. 1976 in Seattle, Washington) received his education from Cooper Union and the Whitney ISP in New York. His works were earlier this year shown in solo exhibitions at Bodgers and Kludgers, Vancouver and at castillo/corrales, Paris. His recent group exhibitions include “Down By Law”, The Wrong Gallery for the Whitney Biennial, New York; “The Elementary Particles (Paperback Edition)”, STANDARD (OSLO); and “Minotaur Blood” at Jonathan Viner / Fortesque Avenue, London. “Metronome no. 10”, which Tuazon co-edited with Clementine Deliss, will also be included in the Documenta 12 Magazines project.
Here are a few installation views from the Standard show:
Tuazon isn’t the Betty Bowen’s only news, though.
Two PONCHO Special Recognition Awards in the amount of $1,500 each will go to two deserving artists: Seattle painter Joseph Park (here’s a series of his paintings from a 2004 show at Rena Bransten in San Francisco; you might remember him from his terrific survey, Moonbeam Caress, curated by Robin Held at the Frye in 2005), and Portland artist Vanessa Renwick, a filmmaker and video and installation artist.
Rounding out the five finalists—selected from the 462 applicants from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho—were Bradley Biancardi, a painter and member of Crawl Space, and Maki Tamura, an artist whose watercolor constructions were seen at SAAM in 2003.
There will be an awards ceremony Oct. 23 from 5:30 to 8 pm at SAM, including a brief slide presentation of each winner’s work, followed by a reception. All is free and open to the public.
UPDATE: From Slog tipper Adam:
A side note about Portland artist Vanessa Renwick. She’ll be in town presenting work and serving as a juror at Northwest Film Forum’s Local Sightings Film Festival.
Come out to her program on October 6th. here’s the details:
Saturday, Oct. 6, 7pm
Spotlight on Portland
A lot of trees were cut down to make Portland, but the sap still glistens fresh with new creations. Tonight, visiting filmmaker Vanessa Renwick presents a sampling of great short films by Portland artists. The program features the first two films in Renwick’s ongoing CASCADIA series of Northwest portraits, Gus Van Sant’s new short FIRST KISS, made for the Cannes Film Festival’s 60th Anniversary, and work by Jon Raymond (writer of OLD JOY), animator Karl Lind, Marc Moscato, Gretchen Hogue and many others. Don’t miss this impressive survey of Portland’s cinematic lifeblood.