Summer Projects, a contemporary art exhibition at the Olympic Sculpture Park, is an infusion of new work by five artists working on the West Coast, from Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles. Invited this spring by SAM’s curators of Modern and Contemporary Art to create an ephemeral art work for the Park, Andrew Dadson, Jenny Heishman, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Whiting Tennis, and Mungo Thomson proposed objects that embrace a range of materials from sound to ceramics, paint and fabric, to wood and marble tiles. Their temporary interventions, from Heishman’s turtle topiary to Tennis’ household appliances made of salvaged wood, provide new encounters with sculptures at the park, in turn encouraging fresh perspectives on the relationship between the landscape and the work of art sited in that context.
This summer, Vancouver-based artist Andrew Dadson has dramatically paint a portion of one of the Meadows black. In keeping with his conceptual art practice, his painting intervention at the park will use the grass as a substrate, much like canvas, onto which black paint will be applied. Dadson’s monochromatic and reductive painting will resonate with the late Minimalist artist Tony Smith’s monumental Stinger (1967-68/1999), a large-scale and imposing sculpture made of steel and painted black, which is on view across the way in the Grove. Dadson’s bold gesture will also prompt associations with the history of the site, which prior to the construction of the Olympic Sculpture Park, was an 8.5 acre brownfield owned by Unocal (Union Oil of California), an oil company that used the property as a fuel transfer facility. Not only does his artistic practice push the boundaries of the conventions of painting (for instance, in an earlier piece, the artist created a provocative work, a traditional painting on canvas made out of imported Iraqi voters’ ink), but through his unorthodox approach, he critiques social conventions and challenges our level of comfort or discomfort within our own environment. Among other notions, Dadson’s act brings into focus how nature is often corrupted by human use and highlights our unwavering concern to protect the natural environment.
By playfully challenging our perceptions of form and context, Seattle-based artist Jenny Heishman creates works that excite our senses. Interested in pattern, light, and color, and their distortion, the artist gravitates towards materials and images that encourage the blurring of boundaries between the natural and artificial. At the Olympic Sculpture Park, Heishman has conceived of a three-part installation comprised of a classic green-and-white striped, canvas awning attached to a cement wall near the manicured lawn by the waterfront; a boxwood topiary, which for the past three years the artist has pruned, in her backyard, into the shape of a turtle; and a black-and-white marble-titled, beach blanket. Whimsical and humorous, these sculptures appear as a mirage, as if they have arrived from another place. Born in 1971 in Gainsville, Florida, a landscape that has informed her work and her artistic sensibility, Heishman grew up surrounded by theme parks, golf courses, beach culture, and a climate lacking in distinctive seasonal shifts. As she pursued her studio work, she began to construct objects that reflected her experience of those often simulated environments. At the park, Heishman’s use of untraditional sculptural materials and the placement of her sculptures, including the awning that offers passerby a shaded spot from sun or rain, entertain our desires for fantasy.
Jessica Jackson Hutchins
Using common objects including clothes, furniture, newspaper, glitter, and stickers, Portland-based artist Jessica Jackson Hutchins draws on her experiences of the domestic, offering an intimate, yet universal conversation about human relationships. Her work explores the ways in which we sustain as well as preserve our connections to both place and people. For this sculpture project, Hutchins created several works in her studio that are now hung from a number of trees throughout the park. Her hammocks, stitched together out of fragments from well-worn articles of her family’s clothes, cradle several, wonderfully organic-shaped, ceramic vessels. Not only does the artist reveal evidence of her hand in the surfaces of her work, as seen in the ceramic forms, but she gravitates towards materials that are weathered because they show history and their connection to the world. Her interest, in turn, highlights both a strength and fragility in the human experience. Inspired by music and poetry, among other influences from culture and daily life, Hutchins has commented that she wants her objects to convey a sense of urgency in having been made. In turn, our encounter with her work reveals this sense of purpose and confidence in her commitment to material and form.
Seattle-based sculptor Whiting Tennis will debut a new sculpture at the Olympic Sculpture Park that will take unique advantage of the site. Known for his manipulations of common or even iconic forms from the built environment—houses, sheds, trailers—into uncanny abstractions, Tennis also breathes new life into downtrodden materials such as leftover plywood, architectural siding, particle board, tar, and roofing shingles. Together, his marriage of forms and materials capture a sense of dignity and suggest a noble historical heritage for shapes that nevertheless elude easy classification. At the time of this writing, Tennis had not decided on the final form his contribution would take, but he was interested in taking advantage of the natural flora of the site, its previous, even imagined, former history, and the evocative sight lines created by the park architects Weiss/Manfredi. The park’s design includes many elements which trick the eye and distort an easy reading of scale and perspective, which Tennis is likely to complicate with his sculptural intervention.
The Los Angeles and Berlin-based Mungo Thomson will be installing his 2008 sound work b/w at the Olympic Sculpture Park this summer. This work, which is comprised of two separate, but related soundtracks, will be installed in the park’s tiered amphitheatre as well as in the subterranean parking garage. b/w is comprised of whale songs that the artist has sped up sixteen times so that when played back they resemble bird song, and bird calls slowed down sixteen times so that they recall the utterings of whales. The higher pitched tweetings will greet visitors above ground as they lounge on the lawns, intermixing with the active sounds of the park’s real birds, while the mysterious bass-heavy groans will echo through the garage to suggest an underwater experience. The artist arrived at the multiplier of sixteen because that is the frequency required by deep sea explorers to overcome the interference of water when monitoring the sounds of the open ocean. The topsy turvy intervention by Thomson will inspire reflections on the ever-present nature of the Olympic Sculpture Park and is consistent with the artist’s other efforts of witty artistic subterfuge.
Summer in the Park, 2010, Jenny Heishman, American, born 1971, canvas, aluminum, paint, box wood shrub, polystyrene foam, epoxy, marble tiles, and grout, 10 x 4 x 4 ½ ft., Courtesy of the artist and supported in part by a City Artist Grant from the Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Seattle, WA, © Jenny Heishman; Washer, Dryer and TV/Stereo Console, 2009–10, Whiting Tennis, American, born 1959, plywood, hardware, and house paint, Courtesy of the artist and Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, © Whiting Tennis; hanging figures 1, 2, and 3, 2010, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, American, born 1971, ceramic, old clothes and found macramé, Courtesy of the artist, Laurel Gitlen, and Derek Eller Gallery, New York, © Jessica Jackson Hutchins; Black Paint, 2010, Andrew Dadson , Canadian, born 1980, paint and meadow grasses, dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist and Galleria Franco Noero, Turin, Italy, © Andrew Dadson