A Little Ramble
January 16 – April 17, 2010
3412 Fourth Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98134
The show’s centerpiece, A Little Ramble (2010), brings a full scale replica of a mountaintop into Western Bridge. Realistically rendered by a local scene shop, the mountain is surmounted by a pair of taxidermied mountain goats, frozen in circulation on a looped path around the summit. The work takes its title from a short prose piece by Robert Walser (1878-1956) recounting a trek in the mountains, most likely in Switzerland but unspecified, easily projected onto the landscape around Seattle. “I walked through the mountains today,” the account begins. “The weather was damp, and the entire region was gray.” The narrator limits himself to the observable, giving little indication of his interior state. The ending asserts the power of the mundane: “We don’t need to see anything out of the ordinary. We already see so much.”
A mountain encountered inside a gallery is clearly out of the ordinary, but the piece asserts itself as a commonplace despite its uncanniness. The extraordinary is expressed as if ordinary.
Upstairs, in Western Bridge’s connected apartment, a smaller sculptural work gives a long view of the same scene. In 98134, (2009) Western Bridge itself is set, as a scale model, atop a large mountain. Drawing from a trope of science fiction, the work shows the building “at the mercy of geological change,” in the artist’s words, a vision out of J.G. Ballard or Planet of the Apes.
Landscape appears in both the imagery and structure of Selected Standards (2007), an installation of 84 diptychs pairing found sheet music covers with drawings and photographs made or appropriated by the artist. Macdonald came across a box of sheet music for pop standards in a second-hand shop in Los Angeles. The song titles, arranged more or less in the order in which the artist found them, read as a loose narrative. “The narrative is about someone moving to a new place, finding enchantment and then disillusion,” says Macdonald. “It’s also a narrative about someone falling in love, but it’s ambiguous whether it’s with a person or with a city.”
This narrative connects to the journey taken by the sheet music, mostly published in New York and dispersed around the nation via commerce or migration before arriving in Los Angeles. The titles’ narrative connects to the artist’s own life in direct ways, and the drawings and photographs draw on a range of themes and subjects that have been significant in his practice, but the work is not autobiographical. Instead, it operates as a pop standard does, as a subjective experience that a mass audience can experience personally, relating to the song’s tale (verse) and its emotions (chorus), identifying with the singer or protagonist. “Any of those songs can relate to any number of people,” says Macdonald. “Not only are the songs standard but the experience can be standard as well.”
The exhibition offers the viewer a series of little rambles, encounters with the familiar–reminders of how much we already see.
About Western Bridge
Western Bridge is a nonprofit contemporary art space, founded in 2004 by the Seattle collectors Bill and Ruth True. Operating out of a renovated 10,000 square foot warehouse in Seattle’s Duwamish industrial district, Western Bridge presents thematic group shows drawn from the True Collection, focused exhibitions on contemporary artists, and newly commissioned works.
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