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Woolworth Windows

Unique use of space continues with Pete Goldlust and Wayzgoose

Detail shot of part of Pete Goldlust’s installation in the Woolworth Windows. Photo courtesy Spaceworks Tacoma

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When artworks first began showing up in the windows of the old Woolworth building on 11th St. between Broadway and Commerce, there was little sense of installing work that was site specific. The walls were treated as gallery walls upon which paintings were hung, not as the three-dimensional space it is, with a long, narrow orientation and shallow depth more suitable for frieze-like installations that read left-to-right like a book or scroll. More recently, artists have begun to utilize the space with much more awareness of its uniqueness as an exhibition space.

Pete Goldlust's current installation turns the walls of the corner section on the Broadway side into a kind of backdrop for comic hieroglyphs. The wall that turns the corner is filled with cut-out figures on cardboard that are painted white with black outlines and lines and dots to indicate features such as comical eyes and noses. They are mounted so as to extend out from the wall to various degrees, and the raw, unpainted brown of the cardboard edges remain untouched. There are blimps, bicycles, plants and strange undersea creatures drawn in a manner reminiscent of Dr. Suess and Keith Haring. Or perhaps even more reminiscent of the late paintings of Phillip Guston, especially the line quality and drawing style.

"I strive to produce work that fosters a sense of wonder, joy and play. I look to draw out these qualities, often dormant within the history of each site. The work is firmly rooted in pop-surrealist tradition, with plenty of influence from Dr. Seuss and independent comics," Goldlust writes in a statement on the Spaceworks website.

The walls and floor are bright fuchsia, making for the strongest contrast imaginable between figures and background. These are joyful and playful works. I saw them in the daytime, but I can imagine them appearing as bright as the lights of Broadway when lighted at night -- the other Broadway, the one of theatrical fame.

On the Commerce side, there is a display of prints from Wayzgoose that makes the windows look more like a collage of 1930s-style political posters and less like individual works displayed on a gallery wall. The reasons it doesn't look like a typical display at first is because the prints are attached to the inside surface of the front windows instead of on the walls, and second, because there is no space between the individual prints.

For those who might not know, artists working with Wayzgoose create prints by laying the inked plates on the road and rolling over them with a steamroller. The production is done as an annual event, with a different theme each year. This year's theme is "Unlucky Tacoma."

I like seeing the entire window of prints as a single work, but I equally enjoy the individual prints. Ones that stand out in my mind are Katie Dean's dreamy fantasy scene with mythological creatures in a riverside park, Audra Laymond's "Against the Walls of Every Power BLOW the small trumpet of your defiance," and one attributed to PLU called "Typhoon," which depicts a hurricane of wind-blown letters energetically flowing across a tropical island.

Woolworth Windows, 11th and Broadway and 11th and Commerce, open seven days a week, 24 hours, through November

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