Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Esvelt Gallery (Biomorph Show)

The Fred Esvelt Gallery at Columbia Basin College is a strange space. Try looking up the map for the campus and you should be able to find the art building just from its top view. The exterior view of the windowless building would be forbidding if it weren't for large "Art" and "Drama" signs. I believe the architectural style is Brutalist, like the Humanities Building on UW-Madison's campus.

The art building is on the far left, notice the open space inside the exterior walls.

The view from the exterior is grim, but bravely walk into the building space and what appeared to be one windowless box becomes three separate buildings with their windows and entryways facing each other. The walking space between the buildings can't really be termed a courtyard, maybe a breezeway. The cement floored space is more protected and less green than those terms suggest. But the space is oddly pleasant. And weird--the space is definitely weird.

View of the gallery and exterior courtyard during the reception for "Biomorph."

The Fred Esvelt Gallery does double or triple duty as the entryway and both upstairs and downstairs lobbies. The main space is on view directly as one enters the building. To reach the clay and sculpture studio, one crosses one side of the gallery space. A short length of wall separates the gallery space visually from the hall space. In Biomorph my wall installation sculptures wrap around this wall and Laura Ahola-Young's paintings are hung on the side of the stairway across this "hall."

The short wall (left) perpendicular to the entry doors visually separates the gallery space from the hall space.

Large windows line one side of the gallery, parallel to the staircase/hall space. The windows allow an exterior view into the gallery. From inside one looks out onto a small, brutal cement courtyard area. The reflections and external gallery lighting change considerably depending on the weather conditions and time of day outside.

Reflections in the window (view from top floor)

During the reception in the middle of the afternoon, the reflections on the glass were quite clear. The reflected images made taking straight photographs difficult, but interesting. I kept noticing the doubling of my installation and my pedestal pieces when I stood along that side of the gallery. 

Window reflections (view from top floor)
The gallery is visible from the stairs on the way up to the faculty office area. A second level of stairs is blocked from view of the gallery but leads up to the second or third floor lobby (I'm confused about floors because the office area comes off the side of the studio/gallery space like a split level house. The top level studios appear to be directly above the bottom floor studios.) The upstairs lobby/gallery space is small, leading to upstairs classrooms and an exterior balcony area. Most of the upstairs lobby space is open, providing a view down to the gallery below.

Sculpture Pedestals (view from top floor)

The open space is surrounded by high cement walls and appears to be visible from outside the large windows that look out on the balcony. The view down into the gallery is interrupted by lighting on rails. I am afraid of heights or I would perhaps have enjoyed the bird's eye view of the show more.

"Pedal/Petal" (view from top floor)

As it is, the foreshortened (and distant) view of the show is at least an unusual one. I am unlikely to see most shows from this perspective again.

"Kekino" (view from top floor)

I was intentional about installing pieces on the top of the short wall near the doorway specifically because of this view. The space is pretty big, allowing a great deal of work to be swallowed up by the gallery without seeming crowded. Given more time, I think it would be lots of fun to take advantage of more of the strange architecture of the space, having pieces hiding in spots only visible from above.

Two levels of windows and reflections (view from top floor)

"Biomorph" is up at the Esvelt Gallery through Feb 6, 2014. Hours are M - Th 8am - 8:30pm and Friday 8am - noon.

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