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New local artists invent and explore in “Dawn of 2012” at Fulcrum Gallery, Tacoma

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on Feb. 14, 2012 at 10:15 am |
February 14, 2012 10:15 am
Kelsi Finney, “Wild Thoughts.” Photo courtesy Fulcrum Gallery

“Dawn of 2012” has been up for a month already at Fulcrum Gallery, but it’s worth going again to see these emerging Tacoma-area artists spread their exploratory wings. The work isn’t all perfect by any means – you wouldn’t expect that – but it’s jolting, witty and inventive by turns, with a real freshness of approach that’s totally apt for the new year.

Two of the best are highly line-based, though with very different treatment. Meghan Mitchell, Tacoma-born with a recent BFA from Portland, does intricate graphite drawings of tangled ribbons swirling over delicately shaded clouds of texture. Like the work of M.C. Escher the three-dimensional puzzles draw you in, then spit you out as you realize there’s no beginning or end in sight. When she superimposes two cut-off hands it’s not as effective: They float arbitrarily over the leaf-like background in a weirdly (and misproportioned) way. But it’s tantalizing to imagine how awesome these textured tangles would be en masse if Mitchell ever decided to enlarge her work.

Kelsi Fillo-Finney also works with line, blurring it and shading it with gouache and watercolor into gentle portraits that belie their completely (and disturbingly) surreal subjects. With delicate golds and saffrons she draws deer wearing business suits and Maori-tattooed antlers, a women with hair made of coiffured strawberries, a triffid flower with a woman’s torso as its underground root. The luminosity is beautiful, and the imagination is captivating.

Two other of Fulcrum’s artists take street art as a springboard. SOTA grad Branden Urban mixes pop culture images in inventive ways in his highly local aerosol paintings – an Andy Warhol-style Muslim woman superimposed over the Tacoma Dome – and his ticking spray paint can time bomb is very clever. On the opposite wall Julian Peña also mixes images – pop, manga, graffiti – into a triptych that is loaded with symbolism but needs more work to even it out.

Not so inspiring are the nature-scene oils of Kirsten Marie Pisto, a Dash Point native who imagines bizarre little fantasy-narratives into her blurry trees and streams. With more technical skill these ideas might work better – it’s hard to tell.

Gabriel Brown, Untitled. Photo courtesy Fulcrum Gallery.

But maybe the cleverest work of all belongs to Tacoman Gabriel Brown, who painstakingly creates little suburban houses out of cereal box advertisements, bringing to 3D that ‘60s song about the “little boxes on the hillside.” All perfect, all the same, the houses that were in the Woolworth Windows last year now float suspended in Fulcrum on their own little islands of layered cardboard and Astroturf, even more inviolable and disconnected from society’s reality. Keep watching – who knows where they’ll end up next…

“Dawn of 2012” shows noon-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday through March 10. Free. Fulcrum Gallery, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma. 253-250-0520, www.fulcrumtacoma.com

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