In the past two-and-a-half years, Tilt Gallery and Project Space in the Everett Station Lofts has remained unflinchingly dedicated to exhibiting art that challenges most viewers' notions of what art can be. Founded by husband and wife Josh Smith and Jenene Nagy, both artists themselves, Tilt presented work that most galleries would regard as a financial liability: Jesse Hayward's month-long installation-in-progress One None Done; Ethan Rose's treated player piano; and an assortment of artists with little loyalty to any particular media. Perhaps inevitably, then, Smith and Nagy announced earlier this month that Tilt would be closing its doors at the end of its current show, Ben Buswell's Tennessee.
"We knew we needed to find a better location or close the [gallery's] doors and continue to curate with a more sustainable model," says Smith. "What really prompted us to close is the desire for both of us to spend more time in the studio, developing our own work."
Luckily, Tilt's farewell show is indicative of the high-caliber, conceptually driven work the gallery typically shows. Consisting of two dramatically different pieces, Tennessee marks the first solo outing for local artist Ben Buswell since two of his sculptures were included in the last Oregon Biennial. Here, he presents a skeletal architectural model of an upended cathedral, called "Fans" in reference to the fan vaults commonly found in Gothic-style structures. While the grandeur of a cathedral's vaulted ceilings is intended to draw one's eyes toward heaven and God, Buswell's inverted model does the opposite, anchoring one's gaze to the floor. The diptych "Wasps" consists of two graphite drawings of the Spruce Goose's engines blurred in motion. It's difficult, demanding work and, says Nagy, that's exactly what draws them to it.
Thankfully, Tilt will soldier on as TILT Export, a roving series of small group shows at local and national venues. Last fall, Nagy and Smith coordinated the project's first show at Linfield College, which incidentally included work by Buswell. Although no concrete plans have been made for its follow-up exhibition, Nagy expects it to happen by spring 2009. "It's still kind of an experiment," she says, perhaps revealing how she and Smith have managed to keep their programming so exciting.