Brick House Gallery, despite opening only on third Thursday ArtWalks, has been steadily making a name in the Tacoma art scene for a year now. And this month, doubly so: The red brick house on South Fawcett is one of two local venues hosting superb tapestry work by Washington artists (the other is the library’s Handforth gallery – watch this blog for an upcoming review), and right next door is a white wooden house still under renovation by gallerist Peter MacDonald, who has hung an invitational show made up of the best of Brick House’s artists.
As with all group shows, it’s a motley variety, but somehow it all comes together in a spirit of light-hearted whimsy. As you walk in the staircase is occupied by Lynn DiNino’s miniature pinball machine “Shooting Fish in a Barrel,” papered with news clippings, with mugs of city council members as the point-scoring spots (try and hit Eric Andersen for 300 points!) Adrien Miller, who showed in Brick House’s “Naked” show, has a couple of contorted head-and-body sculptures, not his best work, and Michael Dupille’s glass-frit painting of a couple dancing is equally uninspiring, with clumsy perspective and flat colors.
But keep going and the show opens up into something worth seeing. While the house still has unfinished floors, the butter-and-leaf paintwork is a calm backdrop to some really good local artists. There’s Mauricio Robalino’s magical, exotic rainforest oils, and two swimming watercolors by Nancy Johnson (also from a previous show) with her usual stunning shimmer of light on water. Jada Moon Gridley has two cigar-box altars, tiny offerings to Buddha and Ganesh that mix Asian atmosphere with a Dia de los Muertos affection.
On the floor is a lead tennis ball, courtesy of Bay area artist Alan Hopkins, who routinely sees the real thing on his birdwatching walks, photographs the scene, removes the ball and replaces it later with a painted lead version – just try to pick it up. More whimsy in a tiny portrait of a rather sad little toy rabbit by Alexis St. John, animal sumi paintings by Ellen Miffit and tongue-in-cheek memento mori etchings by Galen Turner, who usually does maniacal glass-and-neon art.
Perhaps most intriguing is a highly textured oil by tapestry weaver Margo Macdonald, her brown blots layered over pale blue and beige like a velvet damask; and two encaustics by Judy Gilbert, who in using tar paper with her wax has created a medium that melts out shadowing like a seductive coffee stain.
“Invitational” and the TAPS tapestry show are on view at Brick House gallery 11 a.m.-5 p.m. May 28, 5-8 p.m. third Thursdays and by appointment through July. Free. 1123 S. Fawcett St., Tacoma. 253-230-4880, www.thebrickhousegallery.com