Friday, March 17, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Exhibit Review

"Dis-Place In Time": Thinking outside box, inward

Special to The Seattle Times

Exhibit review

"John O'Brien: Dis-Place In Time," 9-5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays through April 7, Suyama Space, 2324 Second Ave., Seattle (206-256-0809 or

I immediately wanted to touch the panels in John O'Brien's installation at Suyama Space. I just couldn't imagine how they would feel. Luminous but opaque, it seemed like they would be full of condensation, like ice, or organic in some other way. Maybe some sort of light effect would be triggered. I went to an inconspicuous spot in the room and held out my fingertips — the panels were just slightly pliable but dry, and neither hot nor cold.

It was good to be brought back down to reality, but also a thrill to come upon something so strange it becomes an encounter. I then looked for an artist's statement to try and figure out the intention, but there was none available at the time. On the front and back of the installation are pedestals which contain sets of rings. Was the piece about relationships? The frostiness that occurs in marriage?

The panels enclose a chamber without an entry, holding back any opportunity to look inside or behind. Handrails above the panels, beyond reach, curve out and interconnect. When I read the statement at a later time, it said the configuration is supposed to evoke memory, loss, people in times past. It could, but looking back, I think the piece is stronger for not being tied down with such specific intent. The statement makes the piece accessible, but the piece itself is also strong and complex enough to remain an enigma with no need for explanation.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company


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