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Exhibit review: ‘Others Who Were Here’ by Cris Bruch

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"Others Who Were Here"

"Others Who Were Here" is a new exhibit by local artist Cris Bruch at the Frye Art Museum.

In a crowded city like Seattle, wide-open spaces and rolling hills can be hard to come by. Luckily, Seattle artist Cris Bruch has brought a taste of the Great Plains to the Frye Art Museum in its newest exhibit, “Others Who Were Here.”

Bruch was inspired by his investigation into his family’s history as dryland farmers during the first half of the 20th century.

“I am moved by people who keep trying to make things better for themselves and others, to maintain and improve, to beautify and invent,” Bruch wrote in a description for the exhibit. “I think about the coexistence of past and present, the difference between hope and optimism, and the profound effects of enormous expanses of sky and land.”

Bruch’s work succeeds in capturing historical and geographical distance, and though the Frye is a relatively small museum, it provides the perfect amount of space for Bruch’s work.

The first room features a circular metal structure titled “Wide Open.” Made out of an old tin roof, the structure is just one example of Bruch’s use of recycled materials in his art. Viewers enjoyed touching the rippled surface as they walked around the structure, and many tried to look over the top of its walls, wondering what could be inside.

The next room contains three smaller works. “Helve” and “Harrow” are wooden sculptures resembling farming tools mounted on the wall. “Emollients” are replicas of three cold cream jars painted light blue on the inside, as if capturing the sky in tiny containers. These smaller works act as a transition between rooms with larger sculptures and bring visual variety to the exhibit.

In the third room, visitors can walk through “Pent,” a maze of wooden fencing that takes up most of the room. Peeking through spaces between the boards, smelling the strong scent of the wood, and navigating the path created by the fence immerses the viewer in the environment created by Bruch. On the wall at the end of the maze is a work that uses shadow and light to resemble a sunset, creating a feeling of depth in contrast to the restriction of the maze.

The next room contains a group of small sculptures on the ground, each illuminated with its own spotlight. The sculptures resemble grain elevators and are covered in white cloths. Here, Bruch’s desire to explore both the past and present is clear: The cloths both signify the ending of an era and cover something to be revealed in the future.

The final work in the exhibit, “Conservatory,” is made of metal bars and recycled church windows. Bright lightbulbs hang from the ceiling above benches inside the structure, making it an ideal reading spot on less crowded days. The structure, which resembles parts of a greenhouse and could fit well in a park or atrium, creates a feeling of openness and lightness in the museum.

With a mix of large and small sculptures, interactive structures, and insights into his family history printed on the walls of the museum, Bruch offers viewers a glimpse into a different time and place.

“Others Who Were Here” will remain open until March 27. Admission to the Frye Art Museum is free.

 

Reach writer Katie Anastas at arts@dailyuw.comTwitter: @KatieAnastas

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