The Fussy Eye: Hands Off the Bricks!

Temporary and forgettable.

In its second edition of temporary summer additions to the Olympic Sculpture Park (again called On-Site), SAM's greatest problem is itself. Or rather: the permanent collection, the park itself, and the majestic views of the city and Puget Sound. Last year's works weren't easy to find and weren't that impressive when you found them. The only one of prominence (a striped window awning) stood out because it was affixed to a retaining wall facing the main waterfront path. I didn't envy that crop of artists, nor this year's trio (Gretchen Bennett, Nicholas Nyland, and Carolina Silva), since their mandate is essentially: Keep it small, don't touch the other art, and make it easy to remove come fall, when the tourists leave. (Oh, and also: Don't mock the Serra. You should never make fun of Richard Serra!) Moreover, visitors aren't supposed to touch most of the seven pieces randomly scattered around the grounds. Restrictions on the permanent pieces we can understand—but c'mon, this is summer; can't we relax our standards for once? One exception is literally underfoot: Nyland's Embroidered Path, some painted bricks barely visible in the grass, providing a shortcut between two gravel walkways. It's linked to his nearby Pallet of Bricks—which is, yes, a pallet of similar bricks, also daubed with paint, sitting on the bridge over Elliott Avenue. You know what would be fun? If we could take those bricks from the pallet and create new paths. But no. No touching. No using. No fun. And come fall, no one will have any memory of On-Site. 

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