Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Olympia’s Matter Gallery moves into new digs

The Weekly Volcano
The new Matter Gallery, photo by Bob Snell

Olympia's Matter Gallery, named Best Olympia Gallery two years in a row, has moved a few blocks to Washington Street in the old Capitol Theatre building, one block north of the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.

It's a modest-sized space that is nicely laid out so that even though there is slightly less square footage than in their previous location it seems larger and there is actually more wall space. And it's a more colorful and lighter feel.

It's also a better location for foot traffic, as evidenced by the fact that in its first week it made twice what it made in the same week last year, according to owner Jo Gallaugher.

As before, the art in Matter is displayed in a salon fashion, not with revolving shows featuring a few artists but with works by many artists all crammed in as in an overstocked gift shop. (Matter's website lists "more than 100 artists creating sculpture, paintings, furniture, lighting, jewelry, garden art and metalwork.")

A majority of those artists work in some variation of found or recycled materials.

New artists to the Matter stable include Helvi Smith, Sheri Fox, Michelle Connolly and Dan Levin.
Smith's "Tower of Power" series comprises abstract paintings on canvas with repetitive "tower" contour shapes beneath a horizontal march of squares in bright yellow-green, orange, blue and yellow drawn with a Jackson Pollock-like drip technique. They're very colorful and decorative.

Fox is showing very interesting "8-Way Fraken Tiles," flat sculpted shapes in rusted metal connected by wires. They have a medieval or industrial look and can also be seen as something like corsets or other laced-up contraptions of torture. They're designed to be taken apart and rearranged and can be purchased either as individual tiles or the whole as a unit.

Connolly is showing a group of wall-hanging faces in painted metal with fascinating textures and interesting shape combinations. One of my favorites, called "The Hustler," looks like a long-necked woman a la Modigliani. Also by Connolly is an airy little contour drawing of a face in twisted wire.

Levin has a number of small metal and found-object sculptures, a few of which feature globes and have a steampunk feel. Like "Stratosphobia," which has a little doll hand reaching upward inside a clear glass globe and a toy airplane circling the globe as if circumnavigating the earth.

Among the old hands at Matter are George Kurzman and Pat Tassoni. Kurzman is showing a large series of small assemblages in painted wood, metal and found materials and globs of black that appears to be asphalt or tar but could be paint with sand mixed in. Most of these are abstract but some have recognizable subject matter. These are outstanding works of art. Tassoni's popular lamps made from found objects are nicely displayed on a tiered stand in a back corner. For those few who may still not be familiar with his lamps, nearly all of them look like variations on the Space Needle. They make me wish I needed a lamp.

Also on display are quirkily humorous clay figures by Nancy Thorne Chambers; some really fun paintings by Coco Edmunds, including perhaps my favorite in the whole gallery, "Wonder Sense," a whimsical painting of two tiny, shadowy figures lost in a maze of many colors; and one small abstract painting by Mian Carvin called "Our Changing World," which is a simple painting in tones of red, orange and green with a scraped and rubbed surface and a great antique pink and white picture frame.

[Matter Gallery, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday-Tuesday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 422 Washington St. SE, Olympia, 360.943.1760]

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