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Impromptu evolves; Mineral goes for girls and guns

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on Feb. 24, 2009 at 6:00 am with No Comments »
February 24, 2009 6:00 am

John McCuistion, “Lucy was a Bonehead…” Photo: Ross Mulhausen.

On the walls right now: two great shows, one just up and the other about to come down.

At the Grand Impromptu is the best exhibit that the co-op gallery has mounted so far. “Evolutionary Tales” crams as much art as you possibly could, and then some, into their space next to The Grand Cinema–but don’t be fooled. Quality and quantity do sometimes meet, and this is one of those times. The premise is good: Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday. The concept’s even better: exploring evolution both individually, and through a curatorial structure in which all eight gallery members choose another artist, who then chooses another artist, and so on. In each member’s artistic “chain” there are up to five guest artists, which explains the huge number of works on the walls, floor and ceiling of Impromptu.

And the result? A strong, complex show, full of surprises and fascinating work that both stands on its own and hangs together in a unifying theme. It’s also a great survey of 38 of Tacoma’s best artists, and what they’re working on: Most created work specifically for the show.

It’s impossible to cover it all, of course. To take just one “chain”: Dorothy McCuistion started off with “Darwin’s Dream,” a mixed monotype superimposing images of Darwin’s face, drawings, writings and maps on swathes of blue and maroon paint. The juxtaposition’s a little odd, but the sweeping movement is a creative counterpoint to upright scientific methodology. McCuistion then (naturally) chose her husband John, a UPS professor whose ceramic “Lucy Was a Bonehead, but She Still Believed in Evolution” is the perfect commentary for the show. The Neolithic head, painted in McCuistion’s thick layers of multicolor blue, has pursed lips and three elegant white femurs as head-decoration.

Otto Youngers, “Bird Brains…” Photo courtesy Impromptu Gallery.

Next in line was Otto Youngers, whose huge, angular sculptures of reclaimed wood deserve to be seen more often inside local galleries. “Bird Brains and other Evolutionary Tales” marks the ironic progress from stooped simian to upright, gun-totin’ biped, with daffy-looking bird skulls for heads. Youngers then, naturally, chose his wife Amy McBride, a.k.a. our city arts administrator: her “Darwin Generations” traces a strange evolution from Protozoic bugs up through a glass vial and fuzzy copper frame into a weirdly deformed, Darwin-faced fetus. McBride chose printmaker Jessica Spring, who enscribed Darwin’s statement that creation is as profound for humans as it is for dogs in a beautiful Italic font, complete with Darwin’s dog Polly. Spring in turn chose Chris Sharp, whose sandpile of randomly lettered words pays homage to contemporary evolutionist Stuart Kaufman.

So you get the idea. There are seven more “chains”, each worth following (they’re printed on the wall, though a portable print-out would be handy.) Catch this show before it closes on Saturday.

Impromptu is open 4-8 p.m. Thursdays, noon-8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2-6 p.m. Sundays. 608 S. Fawcett St., Tacoma. 253-572-9232, www.grandimpromptugallery.com

Over at Mineral, the evolution’s in a different direction. Sculptor and painter Malcolm McClaren (no, not the Sex Pistols’ manager, the glassworker on Martin Blank’s team) has produced a show that’s both dreamily beautiful and disturbingly violent. “Troy,” a meditation on war and homecoming, combines charcoal drawings and black ink paintings of bone-thin animals, sensual women and skull-like faces with swift, lovingly harsh strokes. In the center of the show, grotesquely mesmerizing, is a Galil assault rifle made of bread. The Galil is an Israeli weapon with ironically gentle curves, and McClaren (a former baker) has created it from a highly-salted dough that bakes up to a leather-like sheen. “There are places in the world where a loaf of bread will get you an AK-47,” says McClaren.

Malcolm McLaren, Bread Gun. Photo: Peter Haley.

“Troy” is up at Mineral through March 15. Open noon-5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 301 Puyallup Ave., Ste A, Tacoma. 253.250.7745. www.lisakinoshita.com.

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