Lovely Boys and Flowers


I just got back from a quick outing to Western Bridge’s new exhibit Boys and Flowers. I have only one word: lovely. It’s a good thing I’m not a real art critic or I would be D.O.A.

There is something about going there- from moment of entry, I just feel content*, and I must give credit to Roy McMakin for his building. It’s so nice to be in a space where the art is installed with designs to let it breath. The rooms absorb traffic to the extent you feel you are the only one there, which is a greedy desire fulfilled. The True’s have done a very generous thing in allowing Western Bridge to continue to thrive and be a continuous batch of fresh air that I hope Seattle is appreciative of.

And yes, with magnolia and cherry trees coming to life right outside our windows, the thematic concerns of the exhibit are very timely. After such a long, dark, dreary, moist and dreadful winter, I’m sure we would be hard pressed to find any arguments from the peanut gallery. My personal favorite from this visit was Kutlug Ataman’s The Four Seasons of Veronica Read. However, I also found Jeffry Mitchell’s new piece byobu strangely beautiful and thanks to having read Christphoer Frizzelle’s heartfelt piece in the Stranger a week ago (concerning the demise of Club Z), I agree it could indeed be Mitchell’s Rosetta stone.

Jeffry Mitchell’s new installation juxtaposes a handmade Japanese byobu screen of molded paper with a vitrine containing ceramics in the vein of Chinese funerary sculpture―though this particular tomb is for a soon-to-be closed Seattle bathhouse, Club Zodiac. The form of the vitrine echoes that of Charles LeDray’s Milk and Honey, 1994-1996, an installation of 2000 minuscule ceramic vessels. The screen arranges a Mitchellian zoological garden―elephants with spurting trunks, bunnies, peonies―under a line from the Prince song “Alphabet Street.” The silkscreened pattern on the screen’s verso is modeled on a William Morris wallpaper design, which was also used on the cover of the Bee Gee’s album Main Course. The installation is a sort of Rosetta stone of Mitchell’s interests, linking Asian and European craft traditions, botanical and animal imagery, ritual ceremonies, sex, life and death.

from the nice map/handout that WB gives out at the front desk to help navigate the work.

Probably too much to have duplicated here, and I am not a huge fan of needing text to explain a work of art. In this case though, the background material made the piece all the richer. I was particularly struck how the work was given a large upstairs room all to its self, perhaps the last thing you find on your visit. The screen hiding the vitrine is placed almost to the far wall, adding the essence of surreptitiousness that Mitchell obviously meant to provoke. It’s timely, it’s pretty, it’s obsessive and it put a new spin on Mitchell’s work for me.

At any rate, I just wanted to briefly say, luckily this show is up until August 12, which gives you plenty of time to see the loveliness for your self.

I was curious too, here is the LeDray Milk and Honey reference:

*content, now there is another word that just isn’t allowed in the realm of critical theory.

con·tent2 (kən-tĕnt)

  1. Desiring no more than what one has; satisfied.

tr.v., -tent·ed, -tent·ing, -tents.To make content or satisfied: contented himself with one piece of cake.

n.Contentment; satisfaction.