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"Life is OOD" on Hilltop Tacoma

Sean Alexander's installation is a love song to the neighborhood

"Life is OOD" poster with picture of Sean Alexander, left, and Henry Lee Walls. Photo courtesy Fulcrum Gallery

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Sean Alexander's installation, "Life is OOD" at Fulcrum Gallery, is a giant departure from the ink drawings he is known for. It is a love song to the Hilltop Tacoma neighborhood in manipulated found objects. Alexander has collected, and in some cases stolen, items unique to Hilltop - even iconic to the area - and layered upon them additional meaning through his artistic vision. We're talking old signs; shopping carts; a broken, discarded and headless concrete sculpture of a dog and other such detritus that he has changed by various means such as scraping off old paint, burning with a blowtorch, and welding.

And he invited neighborhood drifter and outsider artist Henry Lee Walls to contribute works to the show. In a window sill are little ceramic buildings loaned to the exhibition by Walls, and hanging from the ceiling is a fabulous multi-colored and multi-dimensional knit quilt made by hand by Walls.

I was fortunate to be able to tour the show with Alexander, who told me the backstories of many of the pieces. Viewers should read the wall labels to find out as much as they can about the backstories and, if possible, talk to Alexander or gallery owner Oliver Doriss about them. Each piece has a story and each story is simultaneously personal and universal and speaks volumes about this unique and storied neighborhood.

A few examples:

"Safe Home/United Savings Sign" is an old tin sign from a neighborhood business. It is badly hand lettered in ochre on a dark brown background. The paint was peeling when Alexander found it, so he scraped off most of the paint, except for the business name, with his fingernails, and underneath he found another, much more professionally painted sign.

"Dippolito Parking Sign" is a basketball goal and backboard made from a sign from the Dippolito law office with a Corona beer bucket for a basket. I was told that Dippolito was a hated criminal. By-the-way, there are tinfoil basketballs viewers can shoot at the "hoop" of the Dippolito basket.

"OOD Table" employs part of the show title (the letters OOD from the word Good) from yet another sign that is turned into a paper football game.

One of the funniest things is the headless dog sculpture. After finding it, Alexander put out signs asking for people to help him find the missing head. The night before the show opening he got an ominous call from someone saying they had found the head and that if he wanted it he had to meet them outside on Hilltop in the middle of the night, like something out of a spy movie. He found the head, but it turned out to be the wrong head and, in fact, it was a joke played on him by Doriss. Nevertheless, the head is displayed in a shopping basket next to the headless dog.

This is an excellent show and I definitely recommend it.

"LIFE IS OOD," noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Fridays and by appointment, through July 15, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.250.0520

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