'Funhouse' at Western Bridge is off-kilter art
"Funhouse" at Seattle's Western Bridge offers a contemporary-art take on roadside attractions.
Seattle Times arts writer
'Funhouse'Group show, noon-6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through July 30, Western Bridge Gallery, 3412 Fourth Ave. S., Seattle; free (206-838-7444 or westernbridge.org).
What meets the eye doesn't match what your inner ear tells you when you enter Julian Hoeber's "Demon Hill" — an installation that, in roadside-attraction terminology, is what is called a "mystery spot."
And what, exactly, is a "mystery spot"?
As writer Luc Sante explained in an essay on Hoeber's piece when it was at Los Angeles' Hammer Museum last winter, a mystery spot is "a tilt-induced visual illusion" in which the mind is "quite literally thrown off balance."
"Hill" is also the main reason to check out "Funhouse," Western Bridge's summer show that focuses on "the intersection between fairground attraction and art gallery."
A plywood construction mounted at an odd angle on the gallery floor, "Hill" confounds your sense of what's vertical and what's off-kilter. Lean against its downside walls and let your eyes adjust — and suddenly it's the single bookshelf built into this shack that appears to be on a tilt, rather than the structure itself. A builder's plumb, hanging from a string, seems to violate gravitational sense, while fluorescent-light "roofbeams," spanning the structure's open ceiling, contribute to the confusion.
Continuing the fairground theme, Mungo Thomson's "Skyspace Bouncehouse" is a PVC-vinyl riff on one of James Turrell's elegant, meditative "Skyspaces." It's a chamber of rubbery wobbliness, and it helps to have two or more people in it at a time to help maximize its "bounce."
Two other large installations offer more optical pleasures: Olafur Eliasson's "Super Star" and Carsten Höller's "Neon Circle." The first is a six-pointed hanging "star" lit from within, emitting a shifting rainbow of colors at you walk around it. Suspended inside a thin circular steel frame, it casts complex shadow patterns on the walls around it.
"Neon Circle" has some of the disorienting power of "Demon House." It's best viewed from its center, where its cold cathode tubes flicker in a pattern in a ring around you. Stare long enough and odd things happen to your sense of what is solid and what is air.
The rest of "Funhouse" isn't nearly as much fun. Jeppe Hein's "Let Me Show You the World" at least has the virtue of leaving you feeling conned, in true carnival tradition. It looks like a peephole, possibly offering a view of something titillating. But when you try to take a peek, there's nothing to see. Instead, there's something to feel: a soft, steady breeze on your eye.
Bill Fontana's "Sonic Approach" is an underwhelming sound installation. Martin Creed's "Work No. 990" (a motor-powered black curtain opening and closing), "Work No. 798" (large black stripes painted at an angle along the gallery wall) and "Work No. 312" (a red light blinking on and off) hold your attention for all of 10 seconds.
"Demon Hill" is the main reason to head to Western Bridge, and even it could be more elaborate. Some fussier interior decoration — wallpaper, furniture, a floor lamp, maybe even some art on its walls — might make it still more dizzying.
Michael Upchurch: email@example.com
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