BY JEFF BETTGER
I knew it was wrong…..but I looked anyway
One of the things I have always loved about the pacific northwest is the sarcastic and ironic nature of the artists and musicians living here. One of my favorites is the artist trio known as SuttonBeresCuller or (SBC). Ever since I met John Sutton, Ben Beres, and Zach Culler (SuttenBeresCuller) in the late 90’s I have continually witnessed them pushing the envelope of smart-ass antics with high-brow flavor. They are the most unpretentious fine artists I have ever met. They work with just about any medium and as witty as their work is, it also continually draws the viewer (often the participator) to rethink something either practical, or philosophical about the world around us. They do this in ways that often end up questioning our cultural understanding and possibly even belief systems. These guys take art and view it from the lens of a blue-collar construction worker, or maybe its vice versa. Either way, somehow their art becomes accessible and understandable to all, even with it’s often high-art conceptuality. I’ve often thought of it as high-art for the low-brow spirited.
Their latest exhibition at Kucera Gallery was no exception to this little anecdote. The show is a multiple themed show titled, “You knew it was wrong… but you did it anyway.” I get the feeling from walking through that they could have easily titled it, “We knew it was wrong… but we did it anyway.” The show was kind of art taboo in the sense that you can easily think “who does that, and why?” The most noticeable piece when I first entered was called “Ring of Fire” which was originally shown in another location. Here is a video of that instillation:
"Ring of Fire" is a sculpture made of lamps. Each lamp flashes on and off randomly. The piece makes you want to laugh and simultaneously think, “What the heck?” I couldn’t help but to keep looking. I wanted to closely examine each individual lamp. I wanted to see if I could find a secret message hidden somewhere, or if the flashing was all part of some elaborate pattern. One of the best things about SBC is they produce that sense of confusion and wonder in you. They draw you into something as if it was a joke and make you think you get it or that you want to get it so bad you pretend to get it. These guys confront you with visual stimulation that leaves you with wonder and bewilderment!
Everything they do has an everyday quality to it. The presentation of it however, guarantees a surreal engagement. This show makes that element in their work clear. Surrounding the “Ring of Fire” are multiple other works. There are a few different sets of mirrors hanging. One set entitled, "Chop Suey I (riftandstone)", another, "Chop Suey II (Ganjaology)", and the last is called, "Pacific Inn 2014." The two "Chop Suey" pieces are both 5 pieces. Each being 2 sets of identically matching mirrors, taken from what I assume to be the bathroom at Seattle's infamous Capitol Hill rock club Chop Suey! They consist of etching and vinyl stickers each set of 5 is identical! Do you get how difficult it would be to re-produce a grafittied bathroom mirror to look exactly the same as the original. Copy cat art at it’s best? I think not. These works validate the “everyman”. These pieces give voice to what we ignore everyday as visually stimulating. We take so much for granted and SBC wants us to breathe and look around the world we live in. "Pacific Inn 2014" is more of the same. From what I am assuming (again), is a replica piece of a mirror from the Pacific Inn in Seattle’s Freemont neighborhood.
There are two other pieces in the main room as well. These pieces gave a hint towards what I was about to see in the rest of the show. "Cocktails, 2014" and "XXX Video 2014" are what remains of former neon signs saying exactly what they are titled. When I say they are what remains of.. I really mean they are fully intact, but immortalized in bronze! I have no idea as to whether or not they had these lights fabricated and then bronzed them or if they found them then bronzed them. Either way would not surprise me a bit. Both would add value to the entire concept.
Like I said the signs were a teaser for the rest of the show. When you enter the remaining rooms they were filled with bronzed replicas of everyday items. Mops, brooms, framing hammers, security cameras, fire alarms, paint rollers and many more everyday objects. They also made sure to include a bronzed disco ball! Many of the objects are accompanied with a hand drawing of said objects. Iconic objects we use daily never looked so good! This show made me appreciate just how easy we have it. The tools we use all the time became idols of productivity, and average human accomplishment. It reminded me of cleanliness, ease, comfort, protection. I got a sense of value from things mundane.
This seems to always be the trick with these guys. They surprise you with something completely unexpected and then hook you with the tie-in to everyday life. It’ art imitating life at it’s most drab. The least common denominator seems to be celebrated, or laughed at. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. The best thing about SBC though is that you can tell the authentic awe and appreciation these guys have for humanity, particularly the hard-working middle class people we run into everyday.
They had another piece showcased at this show that I will write about at a later date. It deserves a post unto itself.