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Friday, March 23, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Visual Arts

It's a 'mod' world of art and furniture

Special to The Seattle Times

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You don't have to be a two-pronged geek in mod culture and 20th-century design to appreciate the eye treats at "mod2," a co-production of Howard House and Mission to Modern furniture. This is artist Sean Duffy's first Northwest solo show and the first crossover exhibition for the two businesses, which share a Belltown storefront. The entire space has been given over to a show that integrates the visual art Howard House represents and the contemporary furniture design carried by Mission to Modern.

Duffy is not only at ease in both worlds, but excels in both. From his fake fur and plexi sculptures, to flashe on paper (a watercolor technique), to his modified "mod wassily chair" and Ikea stools (repainted to resemble various doses of Benzedrine pills), the space has both the look of a gallery and the feel of a department store.

"S'mooris" positions a jujube-colored copy of a George Nelson Marshmallow sofa underneath a Jell-O-bright and meringued interpretation of a Morris Louis pour painting. Should you lick it? Or curl up on it? Unfortunately, it's all fake fur, and the couch is not for sitting on, but it reinvigorates familiar design iconography and, if you know the sources, manages to tease us about how seriously some people take such work.

"MOD2"
11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, by appointment Sunday and Monday, through March 31, Howard House and Mission to Modern, 2017 Second Ave., Seattle; 206-256-6399 or www.howardhouse.net.
Describing "Yellow Bed" simply as a furry rendition of Mark Rothko's "Yellow Band" does little justice to how it vibrates the eyeballs with its intoxicating bands of red, yellow and red. It inspires nausea if stared at for too long. Duffy's reworking of Rothko's color fields with tactile materials and on the sleepy surface of an inflated air mattress can make you forget the original altogether.

The mod movement originally sprang up in London during the '60s and is marked by a very particular, and clean, fashion aesthetic (tightly rolled jeans, tucked-in T-shirts and black bomber jackets), scooters, amphetamine use and ska music. Presenting an exhibit that asserts itself as representing, or speaking to, a specific cultural group can be tricky territory. There is ample room to get something "wrong" and wind up objectifying aspects of a culture. But it's obvious Duffy's work doesn't come from a "working knowledge" of mod culture, but from his own experiences.

While art-history nerds will ha-ha over a Jasper Johns multihued, fur-swirled target, mods will nod knowingly at the various interpretations of the ubiquitous target symbol. And although a background in mod and modernism enhances your understanding of Duffy's work, it isn't necessary. This is one of those rare shows that cohesively incorporates a variety of media and is likable for art lovers across the spectrum.

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