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New exhibit behind the glass at Woolworth Windows

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Tacoma scenes shine in the latest Tacoma Contemporary installations in the Woolworth Windows.

In the Broadway windows, the city is represented by reflections-within-reflections and grids-within-grids in painted constructions by Paul McKee. I don’t know who wrote it, but someone sent out on an arts listserv an intriguing description of McKee’s work:

“Paul McKee’s ‘Destiny Reflected’ is a series of paintings that began with careful observations of reflections of Tacoma’s buildings. McKee installs an urban portrait in the City of Destiny itself. By giving reflections solidity, he examines the complex exchanges in this energetic small city. The visual experience of these fluid forms swirling through their support grid is compounded by them being displayed in a grid of real windows that reflect their surroundings.”

There are three paintings by McKee. Each one completely fills a large display window. The shapes are contained within windowlike grid structures that vary from painting to painting. In one, the grid is made of painted silver bars; in another it is more like a series of building blocks; and the one in the center is a series of wood boxes with cutout and painted shapes within each box. Of the three, this one is by far the most fascinating, but all are interesting. McKee’s use of color is outstanding with a range of blues and browns that glow like candlelight. The interplay of real and illusory depth is also intriguing.

Patrick Grenier looks at Tacoma landmarks with a humorous outlook. He is showing a pair of painted models of the Tacoma Art Museum and the Museum of Glass, placed in the context of the surrounding streets and the bridge that connects them. The structures rest on their sides and hang suspended like TINKERTOY models that have been tossed in the air. They are painted in tones of gray and black with the only touches of color being the yellow stripes on the street and the two blue glass sculptures that stand guard above the bridge of glass. I’d be hard-pressed to call this work art, but it is a delightfully playful little construction.

David Traylor’s ceramic and mixed-media sculptures in the Commerce side windows have nothing to do with Tacoma. They are powerful and menacing black forms that dominate the space. One piece is a black ball that hangs from the ceiling with tentacles extending in all directions and what looks like white Ping-Pong balls on the ends of each. I have no idea what it is supposed to represent, but it looks dangerous. Most of the pieces are vertical forms — either free-standing or suspended from the ceiling — made of sleek, black ceramic and draped in cloth. They look a lot like chess pieces, or like totem poles, or maybe spears and shields.

According to a wall text, they are inspired by commedia dell’arte figures such as Harlequin, Pierrot, Touchstone, Feste and Dogberry. The text also speaks of the sinister contrasts of “hard and severe” forms “clothed in soft fabric.” I think that description may nail the essence of these pieces.

Back up to the Broadway side, there are two more installations: one by Heather Joy and Matthew Olds and the other by Margot Myers.

The placement of McKee’s and Grenier’s installations, both of which depict Tacoma scenes and landmarks, call out a consistency of theme at least on the Broadway side. All of the works are interesting, but they don’t fit together well.

[Woolworth Windows, 24/7 through Nov. 3, 11th Street at Broadway and Commerce, downtown Tacoma]

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