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The Tollbooth’s Back! More art outside Tacoma’s Woolworth Windows…

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on June 29, 2008 at 10:05 pm with No Comments »
June 29, 2008 10:05 pm

Tollbooth Gallery. Image courtesy Tacoma Contemporary.

I just heard a great piece of news: the Tollbooth Gallery is coming back to life. Touted as the world’s smallest gallery by previous managers Jared Pappas-Kelley and Michael Lent, the Tollbooth was a former TV-Tacoma kiosk that the City of Tacoma had allowed ArtRod to fill with hip and sometimes quite weird work on paper. When Pappas-Kelley and Lent left town last year, the Tollbooth ceased operation, along with their gallery Critical Line.

Since then, it’s been a bit of a blight on the corner of Broadway and South 11th St: ripped paper and an abandoned air. So hooray for Tacoma Contemporary (the folks who put art in the Woolworth Windows just behind Tollbooth,) who’ve taken over the management and installed a brand-new DVD player and LCD monitor, and video/mixed media installation ‘Honky Tonkin'” by Justin Colt Beckman. I haven’t been down to see it yet, but here’s what the press release says:

Inspired by music variety shows, karaoke, and childhood lip-sync concerts, “Honky Tonkin'” presents a series of rehearsal recordings through which the artist continues his investigation into the urban/rural dichotomy and its associated stereotypes. Billed as "The World’s Smallest Honky Tonk," the work presented is a preliminary study for a full-scale honky-tonk bar that Beckman plans to construct in Fall 2008.

Using weathered wood and aluminum siding to transform the Tollbooth into a roadhouse bar of sorts, Beckman presents a series of videos featuring himself as a hillbilly music star, juxtaposed with samples from classic episodes of TV’s "Hee Haw" and found footage of hillbilly performers. As someone who is essentially a city boy with country boy tendencies, the act of role-playing hillbilly stereotypes provides the artist with a shortcut around the exclusionary, generational requirements typically associated with rural activities. The work brings a small slice of country to a very urban street corner.

And here’s what it looks like:

Justin Beckman, “Honky Tonkin'” at Tollbooth Gallery. Image courtesy Tacoma Contemporary.

Beckman’s not new to Tacoma: a founding member of Seattle’s PUNCH gallery, he’s shown at Tacoma Art Museum’s 8th Biennial. Beckman’s show is up through August 15; Tacoma glass gal Shannon Eakins is next, which could be interesting.

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