Alfred Steiner's installation comprises of two bodies of work, linked by their use of hidden or doubled imagery: The first explores visions of the future, while the second looks backwards into Seattle's recent and remote past. Paradoxically, Steiner uses an ancient artistic practice to probe the future and a recent technological innovation to exhume the past. This seemingly contradictory, binary approach is also reflected in the tint and shade of Steiner's work.
The first body of work comprises uniformly-sized watercolors, each of which constructs an iconic cartoon character from a fictional future out of a medley of photorealistic elements. While these elements may appear random at first glance, an alert viewer is rewarded with links to their contexts, both within the works themselves and without, in the broader geographic and cultural context of Seattle and its environs. Each of the characters that form the compositional bases for these works represents a specific vision of the future, much like Space Needle, and as is fitting for the home of technology titans like Microsoft and Amazon. In keeping with Steiner's past practice, these works make strategic use of negative space and are presented in crisp white frames, producing a bright, luminous atmosphere.
Contrasting with that brightness, the second series is dark--literally and figuratively. Uniformly-sized dark gray rectangles in graphite-flecked frames depict landmarks of Seattle's mountaineering culture--Mounts Rainier, Olympus, Shuksan, etc. But each of these conceals a hidden portrait, revealed only by strobe, flashing camera or strategic lighting. Behind the mountains lurk the patron saints of Seattle's outsized musical scene, who become quasi-religious icons--the dark gray striking a tone of hushed reverence. Extending Steiner's Anti-paparazzi series, elegiac portraits of Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell and Layne Staley are concealed within portraits of Seattle's surrounding massifs. Steiner uses retroreflective fabric, ink and paint to disapparate these ghosts, whose transitory flashes serve as 21st Century memento mori.
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