Thursday, December 2, 2010

Matt Browning / City Arts Best of the Year 2010

photo by Damon Mori

Dang, I hope you had as much fun as I did--that was a really fun 1st Thursday. Thank you Sole Repair, City Arts, Blue Moon Beer and, of course, YOU!! I'd list everyone all by name, but I've had way too many beers. And I'd like to pause on the fact that tonight's award brings the total prize money awarded this year to $5,000 - into locals artists' hands.

First off, this was a great year for art in the Northwest, it took days for me to compile my short list of 10 of favorite shows. I think that all of the choices tonight were amazing and each was totally deserving of the $1,000 prize. All night, folks kept asking me who I thought would win--I really had no idea, right up until when we re-counted the votes.

Tradition as Adaptive Strategy, 2010 by Matt Browning

This was close...but at the end of the night Matt Browning's Tradition as Adaptive Strategy took top honors. First shown at Lawrimore Project in May of 2010, there's been lots said about this show--all much better than I could write. The sweetest part for me was his beautiful gesture of covering the fireplace and containing everything to the most remote corner.

I don't know...this was just really a tender show. The idea of tradition is beautiful--it's how we pass down our crafts, culture and beliefs. With the nostalgic resurgence of canning, knitting, embroidery and anything else our grandmothers did, it's surprisingly refreshing to also see its masculine counterpoint arrive in the form of whittling. I think Matt's amazingly talented and an all-around nice guy. His most recent work was a bold departure from what he's been known for and I always love it when an artist takes a risk.

“It was a departure from most of the work we had seen up to that moment. Thirty-four funnel-shaped statuettes were painstakingly carved from solid pieces of fir then filled to overflowing with pitch made from sap the artist gathered from pine trees throughout the Northwest. Inspired by The Pitch Drop Experiment—the longest continuously running scientific experiment in the world started in 1927 that is measuring the flow of seemingly solid substances—it was brilliant, expertly weaving together many threads. His use of narrative was as engaging as ever.

Further consider how he placed the work in the gallery. Given free-reign of the super-sized exhibition space the artist selected the area intended to function as the social space of the gallery, then proceeded to dramatically alter its characteristics. Removing all its domestic features, erasing its color scheme, tearing down interior architectural elements, and tucking his work away in the corner on a hearth-cum-pedestal. This impressive co-option of space highlights the co-authorship inherent in exhibition practice; a gesture I was personally inspired by.” - Yoko Ott

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