Thursday, October 30, 2008
Looking and seeing
Sex offenders and snow globes on display at Fulcrum Gallery.
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct 30, 2008
Pictured: "Observations and Perceptions" installation view, photo by Jeremy Gregory
Fulcrum Gallery owner Oliver Doriss says the latest gallery exhibition, Observations & Perceptions, is his first show “incorporating social and political commentary.” He goes on to say, “I was apprehensive going into it” — particularly apprehensive about Jeremy Gregory’s installation with portraits of sex offenders and a spoken word piece by the singer/actor Tom Waits.
Gregory’s installation takes up half of the front room of the gallery, but viewers experience it beginning outside as they approach the gallery on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Behind the left side picture window hang two old sash-type windows with peeling paint. Inside the gallery, more old windows and doors hang from the ceiling to partition off the left side of the front room, creating a room within a room — and that room within a room is a unified, thematic installation that is, in essence, the mysterious building Waits talks about in his eerie spoken word piece “What’s That Building in There?” that loops over and over with creepy sound effects and Waits’ famously gruff voice.
The looped spoken word is like some kind of chant to an underworld god ceaselessly asking questions about a mysterious old building. Inside we see an old work table cluttered with tools and framed portraits of men whom we learn are all registered sex offenders. Above the work table are clotheslines, and clipped to the line with pins are sketchy ink drawings that seem to be snatched from moments in various lives. Along one wall are more portraits.
The portraits are almost crudely drawn and colored in strange duotones. In one the face is black and white like a graphite drawing, and the background is a bright blue. Another face is green on a red background. Yet another is purple-faced with a green background. The colors are acidic, electric, dark, and foreboding. The facial expressions are those of mug shots.
Gregory says the portraits all come from a registered sex offender Web site. “ … you can enter your address, and it will display all the registered sex offenders in your area,” he explains. “When I typed in the Fulcrum address I realized that the Hilltop and surrounding area were heavily populated with these people. After experiencing a range of emotions I realized that most people, directly or indirectly, have been affected by sexual crimes such as harassment, molestation, rape, assault, etc.”
This is an emotionally powerful show. The smaller framed portraits on the table are much stronger than the larger portraits along the left sidewall. The larger ones are paintings and the smaller ones chalk drawings, and it appears that Gregory is much more at ease with drawing tools. The best things about these drawings are his color choices, which fit perfectly with the overall mood of the installation.
As for the windows and doors, I think the idea was good but wish it had been carried out more fully with walls and perhaps drawn window shades so viewers would have to step inside to see what’s there. That would have made it much more effective.
In addition to Gregory’s installation, there are glass works by Doriss, including some from his delicate Sky Ponds done for the W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory. There are also surrealistic snow globes by Conor McClellan, a fascinating wall of ID cards by Galen McCarty Turner (part of an ongoing project that is well known by people whose phone numbers start with 253), and three wonderful little op-art paintings by Elise Richman. The Richman paintings are particularly interesting upon close examination when what looks like typical landscape-based abstractions are seen to be raised points of “beads, dollops and pools of paint.”
[Fulcrum Gallery, noon to 6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Thursdays 6-9 p.m. and by appointment, through Nov. 16, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.250. 0520]