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July 14th, 2010 12:00 am RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts

Wood In 3-D

Northwest artists yell “timber.”


Northwest artists love wood. For good and ill, from old-growth forests to the ethical and environmental complexities of the modern logging industry, wood in its many forms lies deep within the region’s DNA, and many of our best artists knowingly (or subconsciously) tap this phenomenon’s deep roots. This month, three artists at different venues use wood as a sculptural material to filter their own concerns through the prism of the Northwest’s most precious natural resource. At Fourteen30 Contemporary, Jesse Durost presents sculptures that are more organic than the rigorous constructions he exhibited last year. In the checkerboard-patterned Up From Ashes and the red-on-white-striped Refigure, he uses crumpled, acrylic-painted paper. Durost places the works atop elegant pedestals, elevating something that would normally be discarded (balled-up paper scraps) into objects of aesthetic significance. This transfiguration speaks to recycling and repurposing, a cornerstone of the environmental ethos.

Seattle-based Cris Bruch, showing at Elizabeth Leach, uses nothing but recycled wood in his 7-foot-tall sculpture Blind. With its slotted contours dropping down from an unseen sphere implied at the piece’s top, it looks like a giant wooden cloth draped over a hidden, unknowable object, which may or may not be nature itself.

Finally, ubiquitous freelance curator, writer and artist Jeff Jahn channels the region’s rural/urban tensions in Vection at New American Art Union. His sculptures and wall pieces, all created from recycled wood, are painted a hue of green that lies somewhere between pond scum and radioactive waste. In Canopy—mounted 10 feet above the gallery floor—rough-hewn semi-abstract contours cast sinister shadows willy-nilly. Preferring natural materials such as wood and sand to more glamorous media like polished chrome or plastic, Jahn is intent on exposing the soul of the tectonically and volcanically fearsome Northwest. Canopy looks like part of a great, ancient tree that has just been bitten into by a chainsaw and now, snaggletoothed and mad as hell, is ready to bite back.

GO: Jesse Durost at Fourteen30 Contemporary, 430 SE 3rd Ave., 236-1430. Closes Aug. 14. Cris Bruch at Elizabeth Leach, 417 NW 9th Ave., 224-0521. Closes Aug. 28. Vection at New American Art Union, 922 SE Ankeny St., 231-8294. Closes Aug. 1.
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