A taste of ‘Home Depot Baroque’ at Suyama Space - Published in Seattle Times, October 24, 2014
Baroque art may have had its heyday hundreds of years ago, but its spirit lives on. With the debut of the sculpture “Never Finished” at Suyama Space in Belltown, two prime examples of Home Depot Baroque – energetic, theatrical installations made up entirely of tools and fixtures – can currently be visited in the same morning, for a refreshing blast of industrial chic.
The several hundred levitating tubes rise from floor to ceiling across the length of the room. A large number of the tubes have been painted black, and these act as a sort of cage for the lit ones, which seem to twist and turn and dance on their way to heaven, or at least the roof. (I’ll get back to heaven later).
One requirement of Suyama Space installations is that the artists design their piece as a response to the particularities of the room, and Lilienthal and Zamora have cooled the natural light with blue filters so as to heighten the glow of their piece, as well as (like many previous Suyama artists) exploiting the contrast between the buzzy tech of their sculpture and the rough-and-tumble setting. The electricity itself becomes an integral part of the piece, as the lifting fluorescent cloud drips hundreds of thin black cables like rain, which then gathers in an inky pool on the floor where the various ballasts and transformers that power the lights are treated like another sculptural element.
The moving white tubes appear to me like frisky horses trying to break out of their corral: first one or two errant tubes zig-zag through their black tube enclosure, then the pace quickens, and halfway up there is a virtual explosion of light and motion, barely contained by the overall structure; after that, the pace slows again, and few outlier tubes nearly touch the ceiling, where the black cage reappears.
Besides sharing a hardware store aesthetic, the Suyama Space work is essentially built around the same narrative arc as the even more ambitious and gigantic Sarah Sze sculpture which hangs permanently in the lobby of McCaw Hall. Sze’s piece, “An Equal and Opposite Reaction”, also aims skywards. Much harder to read because of its size and complexity, it is designed to whirl all manner of items upwards, like a Home Depot tornado: everything from desk lamps and electric fans, to carpenter’s levels and stepladders are set aloft. The stepladders are key; stand-ins for the human figure, the piece starts and ends with stepladders, which continue throughout, and the uppermost ladders have been altered and bent to look like they are about to catapult themselves into the surmounting air, arms akimbo.
Contemporary art can seem removed from history, as though the nature of our modern life with its Twitter and terrorists has un-tethered us from generations preceding. Baroque artists, faced with an equally troubled time, responded with art celebrating Elevations to Heaven in an exuberant and theatrical way; is it too far-fetched to see a similar human impulse linking these two 21st-Century ascensions with those of the past?