Bellevue Arts Museum
“Collaborator,” Oscar Tuazon’s recent exhibition, reprised and reinstalled various projects with his brother and fellow artist, Elias Hansen, added new collaborations, and, most importantly, used BAM’s 2001 building as a plinth for older works as well as a frame for new rearrangements. Originally designed by architect Steven Holl, the museum subsequently underwent an $800,000 renovation in 2005 that obscured many of its architectural details. Tuazon’s actions provided a third iteration of the building’s features, thus making Holl (represented by seven watercolors) another partner. Tuazon peeled back walls, exposed previously concealed windows, and commandeered four exterior spaces as sculpture areas, including a shallow pool, two balconies, and the rooftop.
The former studio assistant to Vito Acconci (represented as another collaborator in My Flesh to Your Bare Bones , a two-speaker sound recording featuring both of their voices) extended the older artist’s preoccupation with human behavioral patterns to the entire exhibition, filling the museum’s third floor with tightly steered pathways between individual constructions. Architecture was symbolized by wooden frames, set adjacent to corners, walls, and windows as if for future buildings or rooms. These spaces were repurposed to contain Tuazon’s older columnar works such as Old Spice (2016) and Completed Beer Bottle Column (2014) at their corners.
Oil City (2019), a horizontal wooden pole puncturing two walls at a diagonal angle, resembles the brothers’ Seattle Art Museum debut in 2008 in its manner of strangely completing an unlikely site. Much of Tuazon’s work confronts the pristine institutional nature of museums, literally opening them up, as at BAM, by affixing construction materials and drawing attention to details such as portholes, clerestories, and ribbon windows. Mind Pipeline (2016)—a huge circular walkway à la Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1973–76)—faced a newly uncovered window and continued outside the walls, where it morphed into another building frame-out on the rooftop. At the outdoor end, as in Quiet Please (2014), doors opened and closed, leading nowhere.
Non-installation works such as Lamp (2014), Reading Bench (2019), and the glass chandelier with a very long title (Hanging out at the house, being sad and fixing things, and then the things breaking, and trying to fix them, and then your friend dies and you just sit there and stare at your broken crappy things and wonder if that’s it, 2017) suggest Tuazon’s flair for quirky, functional illusions more than autonomous abstract sculpture. This is further reinforced by Steel, pressure treated wood (2011), an inadvertent tribute to Mark di Suvero’s work, without the latter’s kinetic tension. Steel outlines the wooden frame of a see-through peaked tent. The floor lamp is too ungainly to be useful, so it has more conceptual than practical power: it is about the idea of lighting.
Perched on the northwest balcony, Nuage, Tacoma, Rain (2019) was most effective of all—a building within a building within a building. A tiny shelter space contains a wood-burning stove whose chimney rises through the floor of a pre-built child’s wooden playhouse, itself dependent on the parent building supporting it. Tuazon’s art is sculpture that must partner or collaborate with other elements, and not just the contributions of other artists. Appearing disconcertingly unfinished, his works are completed by the immersion and interaction of the viewer.