I can’t remember the last time I loved an exhibition’s theme so much. For its 24th annual juried exhibition, CoCA (Center on Contemporary Art) chose the theme “PostGlamism.” The show gives us glitter and neon and gleeful exhibitionism while it cleverly proposes two questions: What, exactly, was Glamism? And are we over it?
CoCA invited independent juror Michael Sweney, manager of the Art in Public Places Program with the Washington State Arts Commission, to select from among the entries and to award a few prizes. He did a marvelous job, choosing work by 14 artists that varies in scale and media and message, each piece elucidating the impish, ambiguous theme.
I might argue that there could be more art — CoCA’s newish digs at the Seattle Design Center are spacious enough — but, with so much visual oomph, perhaps it’s good to have empty space for our eyes to rest.
Sweney describes Glam like this: “Glam — even at its consumerist core — was an experience; it was fashion, music, performance, attitude.”
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We also might conjure up associations with ’80s glam rock, the flashing out of disco, the rise of RuPaul and David Bowie, and supermodels.
The addition of “post” might suggest a rejection of all of that. But in the art world, “post” doesn’t mean we’ve turned our backs and moved on. Just as postimpressionism extended and stylized those lovely Impressionist paintings and just as postmodernism did the same cheeky thing with Modern art and architecture, “PostGlamism” suggests a playful, self-conscious expansion.
The works in this show retain the visual and expressive exuberance of Glam but also pulse with irony, nostalgia and even the mournful suggestion that we can never go back.
In Christian French’s installation, we are greeted with thumping club music and glittering trophies and even — yes! — a disco ball. But, instead of touting sports victories, those strokers of ego and individual importance, the trophies are inscribed with spiritual proclamations such as “Unity Attained” and “Mind is Buddha.” The installation — which deservedly, although a bit ironically, received the juror’s first-place prize — is fabulous and celebratory and gently chiding all at the same time.
Lindsay McCoy received an honorable mention for her gleeful, brash installation titled “Beautiful Girls.” I could have done without the display of bedazzled shoes and helmet, but the main part of the installation, the photo wall, is fantastic. More than 50 snapshots show confident young women playing dress-up, but these aren’t just spontaneous selfies (although they certainly nod to that phenomenon and remind me of my teenage daughter’s bedroom wall). These are “projects” and are occasionally labeled as such, as with “The Hearts Project” and “The Pastel Project.” The self-conscious groupings explore pop-cultural themes and the idea of self-display, all with a decidedly young, boisterously feminine spin.
I’ll also single out Glenn Tramantano as someone to watch. He has two series on display and I can’t decide which I like better: his found photographs of landscapes, which he alters with glittery forms, or his watercolors of landscapes, which he frames with expanses of glittery patterns. Both series are gorgeous to look at and sneakily conceptual. When sucking on the eye candy, you start to think about issues of craft, genre and the tricks of representation.
In the end, PostGlamism is very much about visual presentation and re-presentation. As with any “post” movement, this art reuses and revamps, acknowledging what is past while vamping it up for the here and now.