REVIEW: Tracing Genetic Inheritance at The Evergreen State College


Works from three major installations come together in the show Tracing Genetic Inheritance: Recent Work by Geraldine Ondrizek at The Evergreen State College art gallery. This is a highly unusual, beautiful and intelligent exhibition that combines science and art in ways that should open the mind and tease the eye.

Excuse me while I borrow from an excellently written press release: “Ondrizek has been creating multi-layered, thought-provoking works of art for more than 25 years. She is a deep researcher and collaborator across disciplines, drawing on art, science, history, anthropology, psychology, biology…Through her art she addresses issues of identity and relationships, memory and inheritance.”

This large-scale installation displays her genetic studies as charts, scales and textbook illustrations writ large as visual art.

The most visually stunning ois “Chromosome Painting Edition II 1-X,” which transforms textbook illustrations of chromosomes into 23 10-foot-high silk panels hanging from floor to ceiling across a 20-foot expanse of wall. The silk panels are transparent, and the colors are shimmering. Each strip is doubled with an almost exact panel a few feet behind, creating a fuzzy look or feeling of double vision. Each section illustrates a type of cancer. It is ironic that representations of cancer can be so beautiful.

“Shades of White” comprises 32 boxes in buffed and coated steel that hang at eye level. In each box is a silk scrim dyed in muted colors in various shades of off-white, purple, gold and silver. This installation fills almost the entire back quarter of the gallery. The metaphor is skin color. Viewers can wander through and see themselves and others through the various shades of white.

A piece called “mtDNA” takes illustrations of skin color a step further with references to eugenics, the controversially racist movement of the early 1900s that attempted to weed out “undesirable” traits through selective breeding. Dyed-silk pieces are mounted between wooden frames to replicate screened porches. Aesthetically this is less attractive than the other works; the frames are too heavy and it’s a barrier in the front of the gallery. That heaviness and barricade effect, however, highlight the barriers erected against women’s race and gender.

Ondrizek is an artist and professor of art at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. For the past 20 years, she’s collaborated with genetic and medical researchers to make architectural installations. These installations have much to say about science and art, gender and race, and how we humans see one another. To help the viewer grasp these complicated issues more completely, the installations are accompanied by thorough wall texts.

Before going, be sure to note the odd hours the gallery is open.

(This review appears courtesy of The Weekly Volcano.)

What: Tracing Genetic Inheritance: Recent Work by Geraldine Ondrizek

Where: The Evergreen State College Gallery,
Library Building, first floor,
2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Olympia

When: noon to 4:30 p.m. Monday and Friday,
10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday,
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday through Dec. 7

How much: free

Learn more: 360-867-5125 | Geraldine Ondrizek

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