Evan Blackwell

An elegant large circle catches the light in strange ways in the gallery window. Partially transparent, partially opaque, it’s quite beautiful, and seems to be made of glass. Turns out it’s made of thousands of ordinary clear drinking straws tightly bound by a wide aluminum band. It weighs a surprising 75 pounds. In the other window line up faceless busts formed of molten plastic, their original raw material still discernible. One is made from colorful cocktail swords, another from toy soldiers. This series, called “Disposable Heroes,” evokes the terra-cotta warriors excavated from Ch’in Tomb. At the simplest level, “making order out of chaos” is how local sculptor Evan Blackwell, 32, describes his work using common disposable objects. In his show, “Off the Wall,” they become objects of beauty, while innocent child’s toys become almost unrecognizable subjects of despair. Plastic cups, forks, hangers are transformed into sculpture—with a nod to the excesses and “detritus” of American consumerism. There’s a temptation, especially as recent headlines announce the savage waste of two more soldiers’ lives in Iraq, to extend the metaphor into politics—busts made of molten soldiers certainly lead one’s thoughts in that direction. And Blackwell does mention the war as a source of inspiration (and anguish). Indeed, “Armymandala” is one of his strongest pieces—a dark mandala-framed mirror made entirely of toy soldiers and black rubber. But Blackwell is also interested in making other new associations with familiar objects. He strings plastic coat hangers together into a never-ending Möbius strip, or sends them spiraling upward in a DNA strand, here exploring the endless and seemingly ingrained cycles of materialism and desire. Some of his work, though, is just plain eye-catching—red and white drink stirrers are torched ever so slightly into a new landscape of pretty peppermint stick abstraction. Pop art meets recycling. (Perhaps that’s

redundant.) Gallery 1216 (at Benham Gallery), 1216 First Ave., 206-622-2480, www.benhamgallery.com. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wed.-Sat. Ends July 22.

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