When John Sutton, Ben Beres, and Zac Culler began their creative collaboration more than a decade ago, their dynamic blend of installation and performance art was ignited by the questions “Why does art have to be an object? Why can’t it be an experience?” The show, Three Way, their debut with Seattle’s preeminent commercial gallery, has the answer written all over it: so you have something to sell.
The spare, cool installation of editioned bronze sculptures at Greg Kucera is the kind of show SuttonBeresCuller began their career rebelling against. Tongue-in-cheek and self-referential, these objects are basically visual clichés about creativity and the collaborative process—and how it can slip up: light bulbs and light switches, observation cameras, a banana peel on the floor, a wet mop, mirrors scrawled with graffiti, a drooping empty picture frame and, as a self-portrait, a three-way handcuff. The show feels ironic and a bit weary, geared to insiders.
It’s a long way from the impassioned, performance-based, process-heavy, handcrafted, idealistic, art-for-the masses approach of SuttonBeresCuller’s earlier installations, the days when they lifted a sailboat by crane into the glassed-in, wavy-floored courtyard at Tacoma Art Museum for the 2007 Northwest Biennial. They left it to drift there, its jib billowing and steam wafting mysteriously from its vents, A Ship in a Bottle. Or when they used to haul around Trailer Park, that adorable punning mini-park on wheels, with its bit of urban grass, tree, trail and park bench.
Three Way puts the dilemma of installation artists into high relief. How do you make a living and support the creation of artworks that are the antithesis of commercial? The current James Turrell extravaganza at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and in New York at the Guggenheim—all about promoting international sales and raising money for his multimillion-dollar Roden Crater earthwork project in northern Arizona—is the same issue on steroids. The Kucera Gallery website explains that the price of the SuttonBeresCuller bronzes will change as sales are made. Perhaps that conceptual add-on is intended as a comment on the vacillating, sometimes inexplicable nature of art prices. However you view it, Three Way is about the price of success.
SuttonBeresCuller: Three Way
Thru Aug 17, Greg Kucera Gallery