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"Behind the Pines"

Isabelle Gresser installations, drawings and videos at UPS

Video still and drawing in ink on newsprint by Isabelle Gresser. Photo courtesy Kittredge Gallery

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All the way from Berlin, Germany, comes multi-dimensional artist Isabelle Gresser with a multi-media installation on the theme of pine trees, humanity, and international cultures. There are multiple videos with found footage and brilliant editing, drawings, photographs, and one wall featuring student work from a project called "Nocturn Encounters: Utopian Affirmation," wherein the students came together for a few hours to exchange ideas and make drawings and print poems and other works on paper and attach them to the gallery wall.

Gresser's video work is inspirational and filled with a density of ideas expressed through a variety of video techniques combined with music and literature, including quotes from many famous poets and novelists. Her videos are stunningly beautiful.

The drawings, both Gresser's and those by the students, are mostly sketchy and often crudely executed. The best are from a group of small drawings in glass cases along with photographs, and passages from poems and other literary works.

There are five large video works, some projected on large screens and some shown on monitors, all with head phones for listening to accompanying music and poetry. All place modern life, mostly urban, in natural scenes to present complex looks into various cultures and mankind's relation to both natural and built worlds.

"Nietzsche at Nice" is a surrealistic video that pictures a large video screen (a video within a video) set up on what appears to be a boardwalk overlooking the beach at the French town of Nice. On the beach are two sunbathers, one male and one female. A Jeep drives by where sand meets ocean, and an airline flies overhead. A huge cruise ship slowly traverses the scene. Two spacemen appear on the beach next to the sunbathing man. It is a moment wherein reality and unreality meet - the essence of surrealism.

"Iris 2.0" is a smaller video with a Renaissance-style portrait of a woman whose face continuously deconstructs and morphs into various abstract patterns as it is overlaid with concentric circles, geometric patterns, prisms, and a more modernistic collage-like rendering of the mouth of an archetypical model with a toothy smile superimposed over the Renaissance woman's mouth. The model's mouth, which is beautiful by most modern standards, becomes horrifying in this image.

"Smart Seoul Poem" is a video of a street scene in Korea. On the street, there is a wall with a mural painted on it. The mural is of trees, and in front of the wall are actual trees which look so much like the painted trees that the only way to tell the difference is to notice how trunks of the painted trees are cut off sharply at the top edge of the wall. Behind the wall is a building under construction. Pedestrians walk past, and some of them fade into shadowy ghost figures. You can see through them. It is a poem in motion.

The other videos are equally intriguing, with multiple meanings and many beautiful and startling special effects.

Showing in the smaller back gallery is "Painting the National Parks: Preserving A.W. Hill's Experience," an exhibition of landscape paintings from the Pacific Northwest in the 1920s and 30s by Abby Williams Hills, a popular artist at the time who lived and worked in Tacoma.

"Behind the Pines: Isabelle Gresser," 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday; noon-5 p.m., Saturday, through April, Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701, pugetsound.edu

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