Friday, July 2, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Visual Arts

"Domicile": Home is where the art is

Seattle Times art critic

Exhibit review

"Domicile: A Sense of Place," curated by Jim O'Donnell, Mike Sweney, Don Hudgins, Dino Martini; 2-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, noon-5 p.m. Friday-Sundays, through July 28, Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA), 410 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle (206-728-1980 or
The Center on Contemporary Art's got a five-year lease on some funky but spacious new digs, just across Dexter Avenue from the upscale Wright Exhibition Space. It's a part-seedy, part-chic neighborhood, one block away from the whizzing traffic of Aurora and poised to boom with the development of South Lake Union.

In honor of its new home (which is still being renovated) a group of CoCA-affiliated curators put together a group show called "Domicile: A Sense of Place." I like it. As usual for CoCA, the gallery is a bit chaotic and there's one video piece that wasn't working due to technical difficulties. But — hey — with a staff of one (director Don Hudgins) and perennially tight funding, CoCA seems to be doing its best just to keep the doors open.

"Domicile" is a fresh blend of video and mixed-media, offbeat sculpture, paintings large and small, photography and techno-what-have-you, some from artists whose work is familiar: Robert Yoder, Brian Novatny, Minoru Ohira and Tom Gormally, among them. There are new names on the lineup, too: some showing for the first time.

I wouldn't say it's a profound show, but most of the work is substantial enough to stick to your ribs. I gravitated to the two big, mostly uninhabited oil paintings of Zeng Hao, with tiny little pictures of objects and people dotted here and there, isolated.

In size and style, they're polar opposites from Kyung Jeon's naughty little gouache and graphite paintings of sex-charged girls and toys, but they all express the same sense of strained aloneness, one point of view appropriate to the theme "Domicile."

Aloneness isn't a problem in the lighthearted performance/installation by flatchestedmama (aka Amy Ellen Trefsger). Trefsger has set up a narrow bed and a few belongings in the storefront window and moved into CoCA for the duration of the show. That means she sleeps — or tries to — in full view of all the neighborhood's illicit nighttime activities (Hudgins says it's quite a scene.) Trefsger's statement maintains she's living with art as a try-out before formally marrying her "creative self." Assuming she doesn't back out, the wedding will be held Sept. 18.

I should point out, however, that so far Trefsger hasn't shown the commitment of, say, Marina Abramovic, who spent 12 days without food, living on a platform at the Sean Kelly Gallery in New York. When I visited CoCA, Trefsger's unmade bed was there, but she was nowhere to be found.

Sheila Farr:

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company


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