Friday, June 8, 2007

Take it or leave it

Betsy Alwin’s installation at UW-Tacoma -
Art On Center moves and changes name

Published in the Weekly Volcano June 07, 2007

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, stop by the University of Washington-Tacoma art gallery to see the installation by Brooklyn, N.Y., artist Betsy Alwin. I’ll make a wild guess that you’ll find it fascinating — for upwards of two minutes. After that, you may catch yourself yawning.

I drove up from Olympia to see it; it wasn’t worth the drive. But I mean it when I suggest dropping in if you’re in the neighborhood.

Living on the Atlantic Coast, Alwin was intrigued by the concept of doing an installation on the Pacific Coast. She came up with a video installation that bounces from coast to coast. On one wall of the gallery, waves quietly lap the shore on an east coast beach. On the opposite wall, Alwin projects a similar video of waves washing up on a west coast beach. Wispy sea grasses stand in the sand on one beach; driftwood rests on the other. A lone bird flies across the horizon on (I think) the Atlantic. It is a restful, soft-focus film with very little movement or sound. But the meditative mood is interrupted every few seconds by a black ball that comes out of nowhere, bounces off the image of an east coast sky and ricochets across the continent to bounce off of a Pacific cloud. Like a ball mindlessly bounced off of a wall by a bored boy, this ball volleys from coast to coast.

Alwin, who has an impressive resume including worldwide exhibitions and installations, makes an interesting statement about this installation:

“(It) playfully expresses concepts of distance, time and geography. It is motivated in part by the opportunity to exhibit in the Pacific Northwest, a place I have never been. … (Arriving from the East) marks the climax of Manifest Destiny, the acquiring of all lands between two shores. T

hinking about the exhibition, I found it impossible to separate these facts from my preparations. As a resident of the Atlantic coast, my thoughts led me to consider the phenomenon of parenthetical seas, the country in between and the geological time invested in the landscape. The overlapping of tectonic ‘slow-time’ and the expansion and contraction of human perceptions of time and space became my fascination and my focus. The work in this exhibition attempts to convey this overlap through works that portray the immensity of geographical time on human scale.”

I don’t think the installation sufficiently expresses the weighty philosophical implications of the artist’s statement. But watching it can be pleasantly mesmerizing.

There’s one other element to Alwin’s installation, a handmade cardboard kaleidoscope. It looks like a big, fat telescope on a wooden stand. Because it is aimed at the wall upon which one of the video images was projected, I expected to see a kaleidoscopic distortion of the video. It’s rather a dull image, and it requires a second person to turn it while you squat down to squint into the eye piece.

Betsy Alwin’s “Inner Limits” will be on view through June 22.
A.O.C. Gallery

In other art news, Art on Center Gallery has just opened its more spacious new gallery at 608 S. Fawcett, next to the Grand Cinema. With the move, owners David N. Golberg and C.J. Swanson have renamed their establishment A.O.C. Gallery. The opening show in the new space is a three-person exhibition featuring Peggy Bennett, Dave R. Davison and Kathy Ross. Their works have been described as “shocking archetypical figures,” “David Smith-esque” sculpture, and “small bronze pieces that can fit in the palm of your hand.”

[UWT Gallery, Besty Alwin’s “Inner Limits,” through June 22, 1742 Pacific Ave., Tacoma]
[A.O.C. Gallery, through June 30, Tuesday-Wednesday 11:30 a.m.-6 p.m., Thursday-Saturday 11:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Sunday noon-5 pm., 608 S. Fawcett, 253.230.1673]

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