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Friday, June 23, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Visual Arts

Playfulness, irreverence, anticipation

Special to The Seattle Times

Exhibit review


"SuttonBeresCuller: If These Walls ... " and other work, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, through July 29,

Lawrimore Project, 831 Airport Way S., Seattle (206-501-1231 or www.lawrimoreproject.com).

The Lawrimore Project art gallery was slated to open yesterday, and if all went well, inside its iron front doors you could see the first exhibit — a giant wooden crate.

The crate sits not more than six feet from the wall in the Installation Space, a massive front room designated for experimental work. And experiment this is, as the piece toys with expectations — of the architectural space, our anticipations as viewers and the relationship between artist and dealer.

This has been a hugely anticipated event in an exciting new space, by the artistic trio of John Sutton, Ben Beres and Zac Culler — or SuttonBeresCuller, as they are known.

What's not to like? The SuttonBeresCuller piece is more than the crate, it's also the experience of being kept from seeing what's inside, where the "real" art will be built. Starting yesterday, the artists sequestered themselves inside the crate. For the next three weeks, they will work on the exhibition piece during the day, and at night go home. The sounds of their working will be audible, but no one will see them.

The artists did a piece several years ago consisting of a locked exhibition space, party music and the artists' voices coming from inside, with keys lying on the floor. Frustrated that none of the keys would work, viewers finally broke the door down.

We won't have to be as desperate. On July 15 at 7 p.m., the final piece at Lawrimore Project will be unveiled and will remain on exhibit until July 29.

Until then, we get to participate in an art event a little more lighthearted, but every bit as tantalizing as Morris Graves' 1953 un-invitations to a party. The guests who decided to come to the Graves party were greeted by the remains of a banquet and heard strange sounds coming from a house they could not enter.

The opening at Lawrimore Project is the latest turn in Scott Lawrimore's exquisite choreography for the space. It seems apt that when he first went inside the building that would become the gallery, he found a sign for the "Aqua Follies," an over-the-top, synchronized swimming team. The sign was a relic of the Popich Sign Co., former occupant and building owner for 40 years.

The playful atmosphere lingers. Though a commercial venture, the gallery provides unusual support for ephemeral, idea-driven work. Annie Han and Dan Mihalyo, an architectural and also artistic team, designed the mix of spaces to accommodate both experiment and commerce.

Thoroughness of inquiry, devotion to work and a speculative approach attracted SuttonBeresCuller to Lawrimore. When they appeared barefoot and dressed in torn suits and ties on their self-created, bilious yellow floating "island" on Lake Washington near the 520 bridge last year, they astonished more than a few commuters and office cubicle dwellers with their hilarious stunt. The island came complete with a palm tree.

Lawrimore's representation of the trio marks the first time that Sutton-

BeresCuller will be generating income from their activities. As visible as they have been, they also have full-time jobs. Despite that, they've been incredibly productive, filling out the rest of the gallery with other work.

The gallery has three exhibition areas, a library and a sculpture court.

Immediately behind the Installation Space lies a commerce area, starting with the "White Cube," a more traditional gallery space. Photographs from SuttonBeresCuller's various performances, serving as documentation and retrospective of their work, will be for sale there. "New Evidence," a video, screens in the other commercial area, the "Black Box."

A room in the back for discourse, research and to close sales features a persona-shifting series of portraits of the artists taken at Sears Portrait Studios. Two mobile sculptures, "Trailer Park" and "There Goes the Neighborhood," are in a sculpture court outside.

When Lawrimore interviewed for a job with Greg Kucera gallery five years ago, he told Kucera that someday they would be competitors. Kucera hired him anyway. Lawrimore hopes to recreate experiences he had with Kucera, including the buzz Lawrimore would get from dinners at Kucera's house with artists and curators.

The buzz about Lawrimore Project has been happening for some time.

Now you can see it for yourself.

Lucia Enriquez:

lucia_enriquez@hotmail.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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