Tacoma Street Theatre

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Tacoma Needs More Galleries Like the Helm

The New Juried Show at the Helm oozes with colourful wonder. A stunningly expressionistic glob of plastic bubble wrap hangs in the middle of the space, brightly coloured housepaint conglomerated in a pool at its base. Another sculptural installation made of chicken wire and bunched-up plastic bags adorns the middle of the room. Boldly painted upon the gallery wall glares a defiant turtle-eagle? of some kind; Holistic ForgeWorks brazenly proclaimed its existence underneath Tacomic excerpts. The highlight of the somehow-retro, seemingly almost unfinished illustration is an immortalization of Daniel Blue and his famous stump-poem "Okay Tacoma". These illustrations present a bold subject matter; the icons of Tacoma, those people that the denizens of GlitterTown hungrily look up to for guidance and public heroics. Not so sure about the big checkered quilt. Seems like it took up a lot of space and that part must have suited someone's purpose. I did like the pastel colours, I just never understood the whole quilt-on-a-wall thing, except, it was too warm in the gallery, otherwise I might have wrapped myself up in it, it sure did look warm, but then, as a piece of art on- the-wall, would anyone dare do such a thing?
A strangely out of place, too-random photo-montage featuring snapshots of a swimming pool, buffalo, some trucks, and an ocean really lost me in nebulousness. I tried to figure out how they were all related but my head started to hurt so I moved on...Of course, the same can be said for the totally random photos I've included in this critique, and anyone reading this should feel totally free to rip into me. I just thought reading a bunch of words is boring on a blog unless there are pretty colors, shiny things, or photos. Anyway, I like random things. The more I think about those photos the more I am inclined to say they are the best thing in the show, just cause I was so confused by them. Actually, the best piece in the show MUST BE the plastic bubble wrap paint splash gob, that is totally my style and I love it forever, I can't imagine someone buying it but I hope someone does. The hunk of grass sod lounging against the wall was a nice touch, reminding one of something someone did sometime in New York probably, but with the added happy sunflower I was totally won over with charm. The bold, inked illustrations of trees and roots spoke of a symbolic, poetical lyricism, echoing the comic-era seen earlier.
The second room of the tiny gallery held a fantastically colourful found-woodstrip collage, harkening back to the days of post-abstract expressionistic post-minimalistic post-modern modernism. With some kind of lacquer lathered all over, making it shiny. I like shiny things. The Patron Saint of Tacoma, Mr. Glass Homogeneity Himself, Dale Chihuly is shiny in a sculptural tryptic with Exit 133 and the Lady of the Port; once again, celebrating Tacoman icons. I can't think of anything to say about the other paintings. No, Yes, I can: obviously the painter(s) were trying very hard to accomplish something but I was lost in the deeply symbolic nonsense of fish and other things. This is perhaps a complex I have, that same issue appeared with those confusing photographs. Oh yes, I did like how two paintings were smooshed up against that column. It was Almost-Dada.
I was immediately struck by the fact that the artist's names were not attached to the art or the wall. At first I thought, " WOW, cool, an anonymous juried show..." Then I noticed the little red dots that automatically make one think "SOLD!!" But no, they were not sold, just numbered, very quietly. Then I noticed everyone was holding pieces of green paper, sized 8.5" x 11" and realized that aha, that is where the artist name, media, blah blah would be presented. Why waste all that paper? Of course, I'm sure the Helm recycles, and every person who visited the gallery and was touched to their very soul by the show could take home the list of artists as souvenirs, to admire as they eat their breakfast in the morning, but, What a Waste of Paper. Well, there are only so many ways to get the information across, I understand.
It seems to me there could have been more artists featured if the curator had truly wanted to showcase Tacoma's diversity, and present one piece by each artist. Not one but three of the wood collages, not one but three plastic bag and chicken wire abstract constructions. The music selection was excellent, a modest alcoholic refreshment choice of red or white wine was offered as well. It was especially nice to hear Radiohead. Not much to complain about. Darn. All in all, I am continually impressed with the offerings of the Helm, outshining every other wanna-be gallery in Tacoma by far. The Helm would fit in quite cozily in downtown Portland's Everett Station Lofts where a multitude of galleries and performance spaces occupy a square block. Wouldn't it be nice to see more galleries on Antique Row? Probably wishful thinking, and I'm sure the Helm likes it the way it is. In fact, I get the distinct feeling that Tacomans like everything just the way it is, but I must say, this 'Renaissance' that started 4 years ago is still moving at a snail's pace and it's time for some of you artsy people to raise the stakes.
Don't get me wrong, or, get me wrong if you think you're right cause you might be; I love art no matter what kind, I happen to know what I like and have formed an opinion of what's nice and what's not. Artists, I don't mean to hurt your feelings. I just want to stick you in the ribs with my paintbrush and get you out there making more art, performing more, writing more, creating, creating, acting, doing. Feel free to critique my critique. I want more dialogue. That's why I started this foolish blog in the first place and making surprise, discreet appearances at gallery openings disguised as a critic in disguise.
~~~~~~~~~Sincerely Not Seriously, Voronoff the GhostCritic


Jen said...

I am having difficulty with the font size changes. I think it would be easier to read if you would use paragraph breaks with a few lines in between.

Kimberlee said...

I think you are right. I'm going to start creating art now. :)

NineInchNachos said...



izenmania said...

RR's right, Tacoma really does need more street performers. The base of the stairs at UWT is a great place to catch passers by in a random occurrence of art... I caught a bit of the living statue action on Friday, and half the fun was watching people walk by as they eyeballed him, wondering what was going on.

I think it speaks to the quality of the SOTA that I saw a lot of college-age kids looking bewildered, while all the high school age kids around there seemed much more like they understood.

But yes... more theatrics, more music buzzing down the street, more madness, more wonderment. 'Tis lacking, to be sure.

Voronoff the GhostCritic said...

the SOTA kids were my biggest challenge and the most fun eggs to crack, they are just too cool...they are for sure my favorite audience cause mostly they act like they've seen it all before....after 15 years on this planet, nothin new to them!