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`Public Art' traces creation of sculpture

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Exhibit Review

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`Public Art' traces creation of sculpture**

Do you ever wander past a piece of bizarre artwork and wonder just how it came to be?

For most non-artistically oriented people, abstract sculptures are usually not so captivating that they invoke an internal state of wonder. The current exhibit at the Institute of the Arts "Public Arts/Private Concerns," however, transforms ordinary public art into an intriguing and alive experience.

The collection contains four distinct groups of 3-D art pieces by various artists. It incorporates the preliminary sketched proposals with photographs or models of the finished product. Essentially, "Public Art/Private Concerns" gives the viewer an inside window into both the inception and completed outcome of a public art project.

The small gallery confines each individual collection to its own corner. Sonya Ishi's "Downtown Seattle Transit Project" is depicted by photographs of the incredibly weird and refreshing outdoor plaza and interior wall of the transit complex. Below the pictures hang the particular blueprint of the intended finished product. A comparison of the huge wall sculpture "Origami Wall" to the proposal below, reveals that it is much more exciting as a working sculpture than one would expect from a glance at the sketchy preliminary drawing.

At another corner of the exhibit the viewer encounters a strange tower of black triangular slabs stacked one upon another. Right beside this sculpture lies a small model which shows similar miniature stacks of varying size immersed in a small pond. The description of the work explains that it was found in the lobby of the Kobe Precision Company, a Japanese firm that manufactures hard disks. Artist Thomas Sayre said the work is meant to mimic the experimentation and growth of the hard drive industry. Just as Sayre's works are varying and increasing in complexity, the hard drive industry is also growing and expanding. Again, there are seemingly vague and meaningless blueprints accompanying the pieces that become extremely elegant and aesthetically pleasing once fully constructed.

Upon turning to another corner of the gallery, one can not miss the large sketches and models of unusually sculptured chairs. Tom Spleth created the seats from a mix of concrete, steel and ceramic. He describes the chairs as "heavy and complex" and "user friendly to bodies." The large chairs are both pleasing to the eye with their dark background and vibrant designs, and potentially useful pieces of furniture. Spleth suggests that his work should be placed in a garden, where the viewer can easily imagine the chair-sculpture situated comfortably amidst trees and flowers in a public park.

Although public artwork rarely receives more than a second glance from the average passer-by, "Public Art/Private Concerns" compels the viewer to actively contemplate the planning process that makes the final piece much more than an object meant to take up space.

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