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Fall Arts Visual Arts - Jim Dine and the Walla Walla Foundry 

by Sheri Boggs

It might be easy to dismiss the southeastern corner of Washington state as a vast "No Arts Zone" -- just a few small cities, some lonely stretches of highway, and seemingly endless expanses of wheat and basalt. But the first fall show in WSU's Museum of Art belies such assumptions, choosing instead to highlight one of the region's most nationally recognized artists, as well as one of its most respected arts facilities.

As a young art school graduate, Jim Dine ran with the New York Pop Art crowd (Roy Lichtenstein, Claes Oldenberg, Allan Kaprow, to name a few) in the late 1950s and early '60s. When not experimenting with such familiar iconic images as hearts and bathrobes, he staged "happenings" -- highly individual acts of performance art -- throughout New York. Dine continued to explore the warmer side of Pop Art -- hearth and home rendered in the playful, quasi-commercial stylings of advertising -- in paint, printmaking and photography. In the early 1980s, he became interested in bronze sculpture, which led him to a decades-long partnership with the Walla Walla Foundry. His pieces, often featuring enormous pairs of hearts or monolithic elemental abstracts, are immediately recognizable and are the subject of the WSU Museum of Art's current show. Although Jim Dine's name is immediately recognizable to students of contemporary art and despite his homes in London and Paris, Dine also has a home in Walla Walla and continues to fire work at the Walla Walla Foundry.

The foundry itself is showcased in a concurrent outdoor exhibit in which 12 sculptures -- in some cases weighing in at two tons and standing more than 14 feet high -- from the Walla Walla Foundry have been installed at various locales around WSU's Pullman campus. Contributing artists include familiar Inland Northwest names like Marilyn Lysohir (whose show of ceramic legs at EWU was such a hit several years ago) and Tom Otterness, who has several delightful kid-friendly forms on the grounds of the Northwest Museum of Arts & amp; Culture right now. In just about 25 years, the foundry has gone from a garage-sized operation with two employees to a state-of-the art facility that was given the Washington State Governor's Arts Award in 1996. They offer services in fabrication, casting, digital operations and design; works cast in the foundry now inhabit museums and private collections from Portland to Madrid.

Four large pieces by Jim Dine ("Five Large Heads in London," "Column with AX," "Carnival" and "Technicolor Heart") are included in the outdoor exhibit, which in addition to Otterness and Lysohir also features work by Deborah Butterfield, John Buck, Terry Allen, Robert Arneson, Frank Boyden and Brad Rude.

As part of this ambitious and unprecedented exhibit, WSU Museum of Art Director Chris Bruce and Museum Curator Keith Wells hope to raise enough funds to purchase several of the sculptures on loan for WSU's permanent collection. See this show as soon as you can; the Jim Dine exhibit is up through Oct. 17, while the outdoor exhibit ends on Oct. 31.

Publication date: 09/16/04

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