"Cross-Sections" is one of the challenging pieces. Three seven-foot swaths of foam, pocked with rough holes, are glued to the wall in Bellevue's new City Hall. One of 39 sculptures in the exhibition this year, is not pretty, but it's not meant to be. Artist Caroline Mak of New York aimed to present a model for spreading disease when she yellowed layers of packing foam in the sun, then ripped them until they look like giant slices of Swiss cheese. Against the clean lines of the new building, her installation is kind of shocking.
Not all of the pieces at the Sculpture Exhibition, at Downtown Park as well as City Hall, test viewers the way Mak’s does. At the park, “Reclining Nude” is a massive, gleaming bar of steel twisting gracefully upon itself. “Urban Forest,” seven tall carved cedar poles, represent a beautiful representation of wind and water. At City Hall, viewers have taken an immediate liking to “Vertex,” which resembles a cluster of dorsal fins in blue-green glass, and “Elements,” columns of wrinkled paper lit from within with colored lights.
Held every other year since 1992, the Bellevue Sculpture Exhibition is a highly-regarded artistic event in the region. More than 200 artists from around the world submitted entries this year. The panel of jurors who selected the works for the show are big names in the arts community, including collector Mary Shirley, Texas sculptor Jésus Moroles and Laura Matzer, Microsoft’s art collection program manager. Residents and visitors have until Oct. 9 to see the work of some of today’s top artists. All entries in the exhibition had to have been crafted within the last five years, so it provides a good survey of the latest and sometimes edgiest work.
“It’s most rewarding when you find art that makes an impression, catches you and asks you to look further,” Matzer noted. “It was intriguing to see several artist entries that successfully challenged the format or idea of traditional sculpture with their use of atypical media and form.”
The Bellevue Sculpture Exhibition has steadily evolved over the 14 years since the Bellevue Arts Commission started it. With its high-profile jury and expanded outreach on the Web, the event took a leap in quality this year. The 535 pieces submitted more than doubled the previous high entered for the 2002 event.
“We’ve got a wide span of artistic expression,” noted Mary Pat Byrne, the city’s art specialist, who has managed the show throughout most of its existence. “We have work that is exquisitely crafted and beautiful and we also have art that is made out of materials people throw away. All of it is art. Artists are notorious for figuring out what the rules are and breaking them.”
The exhibition kicked off on June 17 with a grand opening at City Hall, a striking building in its own right since a major renovation was completed in May. City Hall is at 450 110th Ave. NE, and Bellevue Downtown Park is at 10201 NE 4th St.
“Public art is the most important art in the world because everyone gets to experience it,” said Micajah Bienvenu, the Friday Harbor artist who created “Reclining Nude.”