Monday, February 16, 2009

Dearly, Madly: Howard House, Seattle

Contact: Billy Howard, Owner, tel 206.256.6399 fax 206.256.6392,
604 Second Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98104
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 10:30 – 5pm, and by appointment

February 26 – March 28, 2009
Opening Reception: Thursday, February 26, 6-8 pm
Artist/Curator Talk: Saturday, February 28, 12 noon

Dearly, Madly: curated by Robert Yoder, featuring work by Alika Cooper, Michael Dee, Shaun Kardinal, Julia Oldham, and Haim Steinbach

The title of Dearly, Madly, curated by Robert Yoder, stems from a passage in Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo: "I love her dearly, madly; I love her so much that I would shed all my blood to save her one tear."

The show hinges on the point of intersection between the impermanent and the intense, and how the two often are intrinsically and inexorably linked. Yoder writes:

“We often know when things are about to change yet in some scenarios we refuse to see that change although it is right before our eyes. Romance sweeps us off our feet and clouds our vision. We see what we want to see. Dearly, Madly is a response to these relationships, the type of relationships that are futile and destined to fail. Relationships that are visibly ending to everyone except the persons involved.”

The more we know that things are ending, that life is fleeting and love disappears, the more we hold on and try to forget. The title reflects the dual nature of sexual/romantic connections; containing both desperation and longing, tenderness and violence, generosity and jealousy. It may well be that relationships are inherently irrational, necessarily polluted, that love and passion perhaps always contain an ounce of madness, delusion, and built-in solitude.

Julia Oldham uses dance to imitate the mating rituals of insects, performing and imitating their jerky and repetitive movements. Creatures such as the spider and the moth are loaded symbols playing on our deepest fears and hidden desires. The sexual cannibalism associated with the female spider, who in the ultimate destructive-erotic move, kills her mate after sex, plays on feelings of claustrophobia, fear and the ever present duality of attraction-repulsion. The short life span of the moth also works metaphorically - it’s attraction to the deadly light an eerie reminder of the futility (and miracle) of love as it spends its last hours involved in a one-sided romance, forever hopeful, always doomed.

Shaun Kardinal stands with one foot in our contemporary perverse narcissistic longing to be seen in the most private and mundane of moments, and the other in tradition, with his use of mirrors and reflections, so prevalent in the early days of photographic self-portraiture. With the popularity of digital cameras, a whole new style of self portraiture has developed, one where the subject is seen at arm’s length, often with the arm included, resulting in a more casual relationship to subject placement and composition. Kardinal’s images are both narrative and cinematic, placed in an indeterminate urban setting where isolation seems to be an inevitable companion to narcissism.

Alika Cooper’s women are strong, yet beaten down, and her landscapes offer no joy, no refuge. In the vein of Elizabeth Peyton, her small scale intimate portraits are gestural interpretations of well known iconic images. Farah Fawcett’s youthful and glam-trash look from the 1970s is contrasted by a tougher and darker portrait of some 30 years later. The palette is creamy and comforting as it portrays the underbelly of our celebrity obsession and fascination with lives that are not our own.

The glossy sculpture by LA artist Michael Dee attracts us instantly only to remind us that beauty is only skin deep. Heartsmelt (the Panopticon) works on a number of different levels: a red plastic shape, shiny and seductive sits on cardboard box, a DIY pedestal that grounds our flighty ambitions. The cheap plastic hearts that have been melted find themselves as part of a new identity , park precious art object, part a shiny rendition of a human heart, the biological heart, with all its visceral fleshiness. We are reminded that identity, like memory, is complex and wonderful, not fixed but ever morphing.

Haim Steinbach has been using the power of surprising pairings for decades, and his shelf arrangements, are gorgeous meditations on the importance of context, connections, and how erotic tension is built up as much by the play between the objects as the objects themselves. The ubiquitous becomes loaded with pent up eroticism.


  1. hello julia! i'm looking forward to showing with you! robert's really put together a great show i think.

  2. I'm looking forward to it too--I wish I could make it out to Seattle to check it out in person. Your work looks very interesting and mysterious! Please let me know when you have more shows in my neck of the woods in NY, would you?