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John Grade: Lived History in Sculpture
by Suzanne Beal


Northwest artist John Grade first made a name for himself with small, finely executed drawings and mid-size sculptures that subtly evoked the aesthetics and workings of organic matter. His current sculptural work and large-scale installations tend to reference phenomena from different geographical locations and point to a continued interest in the natural world. In addition, these pieces often push toward a deeply interactive experience, requiring viewers to pass through, under, or into their spaces.
Seeps of Winter, shown at Suyama Space in Seattle, was no exception. The former automotive garage is home to the offices of Suyama Deguchi Architects, as well as a vast central gallery. Exhibiting artists are obliged to address the architecture of the building’s interior. Since Suyama Space’s inauguration in 1998, few, if any, have explored the uppermost heights of the space. Seeps of Winter, however, pendulously floated from the rafters—in effect creating a low-hanging ceiling. At an artist talk in the gallery, Grade, standing before a rapt audience, stretched out his arm and with a gentle push caused it to sway slowly from side to side.
Grade is a master at transforming experience of place into material manifestation. His earlier work involved travel to far-flung places to see how different cultures celebrated and preserved life forms: the Egyptian pyramids, Peruvian funerary towers, and Jordanian burial mounds near Petra. The resulting works captured mood without resorting to the representation of actual objects. Grade’s current explorations still require travel, but his works have begun to get in on the act too, as he exhibits, displaces, and re-positions them in new, often radically different territory.

Host, 2007.
Cellulose, rice pulp, ground seed, and capsaicin.
View of installation at the Kaibab National Forest, AZ, before it was eaten by birds.


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