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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

In/Visible Is Up: The Roaming Sculptures of John Grade

posted by on January 23 at 15:15 PM


The man with his back to us in the photograph above is Seattle artist John Grade. Mounted on him is his sculpture Collector: two horn shapes made of interlocking wood parts, first displayed at Davidson Contemporary Gallery last year. Back then, the piece hung on the white wall—in a refined state. That was before Grade took it hiking.

Now, the piece has acquired a mane of seaweed: It lies among the oysters—watched over by some oystermen—in Willapa Bay. Here are views of it there.



Later this year, Grade will take it out of the water, remove the oysters that have grown on it, and eat them in a formal feast on the site. After that, the horns will be mounted onto the front of Grade’s red pickup truck, where they’ll acquire a layer of bug guts as he drives them down to a slot canyon in Utah.

This particular canyon was the driving force behind the shape of the horns in the first place—that and an experience Grade had with hostile Ugandans during a trip a few years ago. (For the full story on that, you have to listen to the podcast.) The horns were shaped to fit snugly into the canyon, and in the spring, the rushing water that goes through the canyon will either scrub the horns bone-clean, or destroy them. Grade will wait to see.

Until recently, Grade was known mostly for his small, intensely controlled charcoal and graphite drawings, like this one, Bog (2005).


His other familiar work was finely wrought, faux-weathered sculptures. The new work comes out of both these traditions. It’s formally tight, at least to start. It’s not faux-weathered, it actually weathers. It changes with its site, like the process work of Turner Prize winner Simon Starling, and according to the lapsing of time, like (Turner Prize nominee) Darren Almond’s videos. (Grade admires both British artists.)

Bog is a drawing that refers directly to an installation Grade unveiled last week: a giant, sagging false ceiling dotted with craters, made of paper pulp and hanging in Suyama Space in Belltown. That’s where I met him to talk for this podcast.

Seeps of Winter is the new installation’s title. Grade first got the idea for it during a residency near a bog in Mayo County, Ireland. Running by, Grade couldn’t help thinking about the human beings frozen under the thick surfaces of bogs for thousands of years—the ones who surface occasionally, staring upward. In Suyama Space, the false ceiling acts as the bog surface; you can lie on the floor to look through at the natural light above.


Like Collector, Seeps of Winter has an adventurous life ahead of it.

Hear about it here.

RSS icon Comments


Has anyone actually lay on the floor underneath, though?

Or are they constrained by a perception that you're not allowed to?

Posted by Will in Seattle | January 23, 2008 3:24 PM

I lay on the floor myself just this week. Lie away.

Posted by Jen Graves | January 23, 2008 3:27 PM

(I don't have to tell you, do I, how complicated it was conjugating those verbs correctly.)

Posted by Jen Graves | January 23, 2008 3:28 PM

No. You don't.

Posted by Mr. Poe | January 23, 2008 3:58 PM

the last pic looks like an oversized golfball. fore!

Posted by from east of miss | January 23, 2008 4:01 PM

Wow, these are some downright thoughtful comments.

Posted by Emily | January 23, 2008 6:21 PM

I think it looks like a giant Play-Doh microphone.

Posted by The CHZA | January 23, 2008 7:29 PM

That was a normal ceiling until there was a Fatties Against Dan convention on the next floor up.

Posted by chocotaco | January 23, 2008 9:36 PM

hey, i know that hot model!!

Posted by holz | January 24, 2008 1:16 AM

since I dissed on the last couple of things Jen has slogged about, I feel compelled to say that I actually like this stuff.

that is all.

Posted by michael strangeways | January 24, 2008 9:15 AM

Art is Tra spelled well you know....

Posted by PITY MON DRAIN | January 24, 2008 2:30 PM

John Grade is a really nice, thoughtful guy. He is my neighbor and I enjoy his company and his art.

Posted by Lisa Sferra MD | January 25, 2008 8:28 AM

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