Always, Sometimes, Never brings the work of New York-based conceptual artist Tavares Strachan to Seattle for the first time. Strachan incorporates science, art, and the environment to create works that are ambitious in scale and scope. Many of his projects investigate the nature of invisibility, calling into question the conditions that frame and legitimize certain information and histories while obscuring and erasing others. This exhibition places his sculptures, collages, and neon works within and alongside pools of water, echoing the ways Seattle has been shaped geographically and culturally by its rainfall and waterways. By symbolically flooding the museum, Strachan brings submerged histories to the surface and transforms the gallery into a space of actual and conceptual reflection.
Strachan aims to build and connect communities through his work by making visible networks of power that prompt viewers to reconsider their relationships on a local and global level. One of the works in the exhibition, A Children’s History of Invisibility (2017) chronicles topics—including figures, narratives, objects, and languages—often overlooked by society. Each of the twenty-six panels that comprise the work corresponds with a letter of the alphabet, interweaving imagery and texts in an A-to-Z index of underknown histories. The perceived authority of language is also the subject of Us, We, Them (2015) and I Belong Here, (2011), neon sculptures that question declarations of affiliation, location, and identity.
Overlooked histories are also brought forward in a series of collaged portraits, including that of the nineteenth-century Korean empress, Queen Min (2016–17), and twentieth-century musical innovator, Butch Morris (2015–16). The biographies of these figures remain largely unknown, yet their cultural influences have been broad and complex.
The pools that serve as a setting for these works enhance as well as distort each piece, complicating viewers’ ability to see and discern. Water, as a mechanism of both flow and hindrance, is an apt symbol within the artist’s relentless scrutiny of perception and the definition of reality. With each element, Always, Sometimes, Never points to what remains unseen, extending an invitation to dig deeper and explore what lies beyond what we already know.
Tavares Strachan was born in 1979 in Nassau, Bahamas. He received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied glass, and an MFA in sculpture from Yale University. His focus on absence and presence led to his staging Seen/Unseen in 2011, an exhibition of past and new work in an undisclosed location never open to the public. In 2013 Strachan represented the Bahamas in the nation’s inaugural pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale.