Glistening epoxy resin spires stretch toward the ceiling in the Center on Contemporary Art’s Georgetown gallery, while intricate wire confections dangle downward, above visitors’ heads. Tiny, ethereal photographic works share the walls with massive canvases that fool the eye with tricks of light and shadow. Found, foraged, upcycled, embroidered, fused, polished or simply sketched on paper, the artworks at CoCA’s latest exhibition are nothing if not varied. In a show entitled “Collision,” after all, you’ve got to expect contrasts.
“CoCA Collision: Past, Present, & Future Members Show” showcases over 150 artworks by the nonprofit’s members, ranging from newcomers to exhibitors who have been showing with CoCA since the 1980s. Free and open to the public, the show runs through Sept. 13 at CoCA Georgetown in Suite 258 of the Seattle Design Center (5701 6th Ave. S), open 9 a.m. till 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and till 9 p.m. during the center’s Third Thursday art walk.
The closing party for the show will be held on Saturday, Sept. 14, 6-9 p.m. as part of Georgetown’s monthly Art Attack. Attendees can park for free or hop the Georgetown Artride, which will be making a stop at CoCA roughly every 15 minutes as it makes the loop to Equinox Studios, Airport Way S galleries, Laurelhurst Cellars and SANCA.
“CoCA Collision” curators Chris Crites, Shawn Ferris and Joseph Roberts whittled down well over 500 submissions to create an engaging exhibition that reflects both the talent of CoCA’s members and a common spirit of experimentation.
Longtime CoCA member Wanda Pelayo contributed a diminutive digital print, “Luces”—a first foray into digital photography after decades working in other media ranging from prints to collages. “To me, it’s important to experiment with whatever material I have at hand,” emphasized Pelayo. “The main thing is to work and see what you come up without even thinking what you’re going to come up with.”
The nearly 150 participants in “CoCA Collision” include very recent members, notably 18-year-old Bailey Sarmiento from Redmond—the youngest exhibitor in the show.
Past and present CoCA board members also contributed pieces, such as the mixed-media “Nest Compartment, 2009-2013,” complete with a robin’s egg, by poet and artist David Francis and a colorful 3-D “Hoop Skirt” by mixed-media artist and former CoCA president Cathy Sarkowsky.
Other familiar faces have had CoCA solo shows, such as 2-D and 3-D artist Stephen Rock and painter and conceptual artist Kate Vrijmoet, or have participated in its major group exhibitions, such as painter and collage artist Ronald Hall. Still others, like painter Jeff Mihalyo, have participated in the annual CoCA Marathon, 24 hours of intensive art-making culminating in an auction. Abstract artist Alan Fulle, whose towering resin sculptures currently grace the gallery entrance, is also participating in CoCA’s temporary outdoor exhibition at Carkeek Park.
The “Collision” show is a study in radically diverging approaches to shared obsessions. Rock’s print “Divided We Stand (Red State)” reassembles the kind of digitized images that saturate U.S. media today, while Hall explores African American themes, viewing American society through the prism of its pre-abolition past. Artist Morgan Sobel paints his response to a current event—the catastrophic Gulf oil spill—into the churning currents of his “American Water” with understated symbology. The cool palette in Vrijmoet’s underwater depiction of a pool, however, calms the senses, sinking the viewer into the piece with its powerful neurological effect. Similar blues reappear in Mihalyo’s dreamlike “Fisherman,” only not in the water, but in the sky.
These disparate yet strangely resonating works create the impression not so much of collision as of creative foment. Another exhibitor, photographer and printmaker Susan Gans, recently rejoined CoCA after a hiatus, noting of its Seattle Design Center location, “There’s a lot of activity, a lot of collaboration that comes from having so many artists involved with these spaces and CoCA in particular. It is enriching.”
The spacious Georgetown gallery, which opened in May 2012, has literally given the organization room to grow while remaining true to its core mission. “It’s a forum for the advancement, development and understanding of contemporary art, for the viewer certainly, and for the artists as well,” explains Roberts. “We’re just trying to provide that forum on an ongoing basis.”
For over 30 years, CoCA has managed to do just that, making it one of the longest-running nonprofit alternative arts organizations run by artists in the country.
The perennial need for a gallery space of one’s own has given the organization staying power. “I think CoCA has always essentially represented emerging work–that is, work that hasn’t yet been necessarily picked up by a gallery, certainly not by a museum,” observes Roberts. Many past and present members have achieved extraordinary success, but all benefit from the chance to exhibit at CoCA and push the envelope within a supportive environment.
As further proof of its dynamism, CoCA offers many additional ongoing and upcoming events for art enthusiasts.
At CoCA Georgetown, visitors can also view the arboreal art of artist-in-residence Peppé, who transforms massive tree trunks into artfully polished sculpture.
The outdoor exhibition at Carkeek Park, “Acclimatized: Heaven & Earth 5,” runs through Oct. 20.
The Belltown gallery (2721 1st Ave.) is exhibiting work by Tacoma-based mixed-media artist Elias Hansen.
At CoCA Ballard (6413 Seaview Ave. NW), a retrospective on self-taught Seattle artist Mike Dondanville, “Paintings From The Maw,” is currently on display. The evening of Thursday, Aug. 8, artist Etsuko Ichikawa will be creating a 35-foot glass pyrograph on paper and screening her short film, “Echo at Satsop,”on, and Los Angeles-based artist Lyle Carbajal will also debut his Basquiat-inspired show, “Watching the Snakes Volute.”
To learn more about the Center on Contemporary Art, visit http://www.cocaseattle.org/.