Thursday, April 17, 2008

Inconsistent patterns

I like the titles and descriptions TaCo sent out in announcing the latest Woolworth Windows installation:

“Issei Watanabe — Possibility of Inconsistent Patterns featuring duct tape geometry; Kelsey Parkhurst, Dana Brownfield, and Melissa Balch — What To Wear featuring absurdly altered articles of clothing; Justin Hahn — untitled installation featuring lots of polymeric material; Celeste Cooning — Milk and Honey II featuring an artificial paper forest.”

How well those titles and descriptions match what is actually in the windows varies.

Facing the windows on the Broadway side, let’s start with the windows on the far left. First up is Celeste Cooning’s Milk and Honey II, two windows filled with cut-paper floral patterns. The decorative and elaborate cut-paper leaves cover the walls, hang from the ceiling and cascade down to a bed of leaves on the floor. In all but one small section, the paper is snow white and has the kind of sparkle in front of its bright blue background that we might associate with paper snowflakes — pretty and fanciful. In the second window, however, there is a little section on the floor where the leaves are spray painted with multiple colors, the overall affect being the colors of autumn leaves on the ground partially covered with a layer of snow. That sounds much more pleasing than it actually is. I think the addition of color hurts more than it helps. (And what’s with the ladder lying on the floor? Is it an intentional part of the installation, or was it accidentally left there by a worker?)

Next up is Justin Hahn. Stretched across large sections of windows are piles of what look like purple and green latex sheets. Imagine blown sections of tire retreads painted a milky purple and green and stacked two to three feet high in a long ribbon. There is a kind of unity and design integrity to this that I can appreciate. But in the middle is something jarringly out of place: two green and yellow-green figures that look like little creatures from a horror movie rising from a pile of bloodred human or animal organs. It’s very creepy.

Next comes the Parkhurst, Brownfield and Balch installation (Brownfield’s name is included in the announcement but the window labels mention only Parkhurst and Balch, and it is hard to tell who did what). This installation consists of small pop art paintings of shoes and other items that might be found in a woman’s closet. There is a dress hanging on a coat hanger that hangs from a painting of a coat hanger, and there are scattered shoes and an oversized jacket and a dress woven from some kind of plastic material, and a few round white balls on the floor. The white dress has a nice form to it, but the rest of it seems random and uninteresting.

The most inventive work is Watanabe’s Possibility of Inconsistent Patterns in the Commerce Street windows. It’s fascinating and makes good use of the available space. I first noticed it while driving up the hill of 11th Street. I saw groups of vertical stripes — clusters of black stripes and clusters of multicolored stripes. As I drove past, the relationships between the stripes began to change because they were on different levels, and depending on my point of view, different groupings of stripes became visible. This peekaboo effect became more pronounced when I walked down the hill and looked through the windows.

The stripes are made from tape on the windows and on the walls behind the windows. The window stripes are all vertical and are spaced about an inch apart. Most of them are black except for one cluster of brightly colored stripes. The window stripes almost completely block the view of the other stripes on the back wall, which are more colorful and create opposing patterns — a triangular pattern in silver and stair steps in rainbow colors. The “possibilities of inconsistent patterns” seem almost endless as you peer between the vertical stripes at various places.

[Woolworth Windows, 24hours/7 days, through May 31, Broadway at 11th and Commerce at 11th, Tacoma]

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