The X Y Z crew. Photo by Kelton Sears

Through Art, Books, and ‘Anti-Reality Hallucinations,’ X Y Z Is Building a New Seattle Scene

Four arts collectives formidable in their own right are joining forces in an exciting new space.

At X Y Z, you’ll be able to walk into another dimension.

“I’m interested in immersive, anti-reality hallucinations,” says Colleen Louise Barry, the publisher and curator behind Seattle’s Mount Analogue press. “Large scale, overly ambitious installation. Each month, everything we do will become this kind of weird strange world you can physically enter.”

X Y Z is itself a kind of anti-reality hallucination. The brand new Pioneer Square gallery, bookstore, community space and printing studio was once nothing more than the collective, far-off dream of Barry’s and her friends—independent publisher Gramma Poetry and risograph printing duo Cold Cube Press. Cold Cube had spent the past year collaborating with Gramma and Mount Analogue, turning the two publishers’ experimentally designed books into beautiful, hand-crafted print matter full of vivid tones and textures—an art Cold Cube perfected printing work within the local comics scene.

“We just thought ‘Oh my god, we could actually collaborate on so much more work if we shared our own space. We could build a scene together,” says Cold Cube’s Aidan Fitzgerald. “We all came together after dreaming hard. Then we just got lucky.”

Barry stumbled upon an open space in the former location of the G. Gibson Gallery, one Gramma, Cold Cube, and Mount Analgoue would end up sharing with Dori Scherer of Specialist Gallery.

“For Specialist, it’s also been a dream,” Scherer says. “We were going to do it in Tukwila, but we ended up being able to do it here. The goal for us is to fill a hole in the Seattle art scene.”

X Y Z certainly seems poised to become a whole new scene unto itself. If you define a “scene” as a bunch of folks in close proximity who do cool stuff on the same wavelength—X Y Z has already, by its very design, succeeded in forging one. Cold Cube, Gramma, Mount Analogue and Specialist all have their own respective spaces within the large, partitioned room, but as Fitzgerald says, “even though we’re all separate entities, there’s definitely a union.”

The ways that union will manifest within X Y Z is one of the most exciting aspects of the space. “For me I think about it in terms of the literary scene,” says Gramma’s Drew Scott Swenhaugen. “In a lot of cities the literary scene is usually separate from the visual arts scene, oftentimes a lot smaller. Visual artists aren’t just cramming themselves into a poetry reading. My goal has always been, as a lover of visual art, to cram them together, to have them in the same sentence. I want to blur that boundary.”

“I like the idea where if we’re having a reading, some people might come see the visual art space,” Scherer says. “Or if we have an event, then we’ll make risograph posters for it. Or if we have a musician come in, they can play in Colleen’s space in one of her big installations.”

“The main goal is to make things that are really collaborative not just how they’re made, but how they interact with each other,” Barry adds.

The unifying thread, according to all four groups, is accessibility. On the surface, all the work might seem comical or jokey. Mount Analogue’s debut installation for the space’s kickoff party, for instance, is Mary Anne Carter’s Women in the Style of Taco Bell. But behind the ceiling-hung pool noodles and taco art is a critique of corporate identity and an exploration into femininty and artificiality.

“I feel like a lot of the stuff we do is really funny at first and, maybe, feels deeper later. But hopefully that draws people in so they experience it at all in the first place,” Barry says. Scherer also hopes to draw people in from outside the immediate area, “not only showing local Seattle art, but being a bridge to connect Seattle and those artists to other cities.” And for Fitzgerald, one long term goal includes drawing people in who want to make art themselves, teaching two-day risograph printing classes to people interested in learning how to design for the rarified risograph printing machines—something similar to Vera’s screen printing workshop.

Future plans aside, the here and now is also looking pretty sweet for X Y Z. Tonight, the space is holding its opening extravaganza, presenting that aforementioned taco art alongside new risograph prints from Drew Miller, Andrew Lamb Schultz, and Lindsay Anne Watson, as well as Specialist’s inaugural exhibition of Alexi Brown-Schmidt’s oil paintings and William E. Shields’s sculptures. Gramma will be presenting the original artworks used for the covers on a number of its previous and forthcoming titles.

It definitely won’t be hard to find it all. As Scherer says, “we share the same front door.”

X Y Z Opening Extravaganza, 300 S. Washington St. Free. All ages. 6 p.m. – Midnight. Thurs. Aug. 3.

More in Arts & Culture

Cast trailers for “Three Busy Debras” filming at the Snoqualmie YMCA parking lot on Sept. 4. Madison Miller / staff photo
New TV show filming in Snoqualmie

“Three Busy Debras” is being filmed in cities in the Seattle area, including Snoqualmie.

Tyler, The Creator performs during Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019 in Seattle, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Gallery: Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival 2019

Scenes from Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival at the Seattle Center.

Acquisition gift chosen from 2018 Seattle Art Fair. Installation view of Recent Acquisitions: Toyin Ojih Odutola, Frye Art Museum, 2019. Photo: Jueqian Fang.
Seattle Art Fair renews partnership with Frye Art Museum

The Seattle Art Fair, presented by AIG, is pleased to announce the… Continue reading

Bread Face. Courtesy of the artist @breadfaceblog.
Seattle Art Fair returns Aug. 1

The Seattle Art Fair, presented by AIG, is proud to announce the… Continue reading

Linda Hodges Gallery in Pioneer Square. Photo courtesy Linda Hodges Gallery
Despite Construction, Pioneer Square’s Art Galleries Remain Strong

Long a hub for Seattle’s visual arts scene, the neighborhood gets an new space this spring with the opening of ARTS at King Street Station.

Patty Gone offers an artistic toast to Danielle Steel. Photo courtesy Mount Analogue
Patty Gone’s Queer Romance Novel Reflections

The artist’s upcoming residency at Mount Analogue explores the cultural impact of pulpy romantic fantasy.

Photo by Spencer Baker 
                                Mark Haim’s torso will be guided by his friends’ movements in Parts to a Sum.
Crowdsourced Choreography

Mark Haim’s ‘Parts to a Sum’ exemplifies how choreographers are relinquishing control in the name of collaboration.

Seeing the Seattle Opera’s <em>The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs</em> counts as screen time. Photo by Philip Newton
The Innovative Tech Disconnect of ‘The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs’

Like the technology Jobs pioneered, the Seattle Opera production is flashy but lacking in soul.

Seattle Asian American Film Festival 2019 Picks

Make the most of the cultural cinematic event with these four selections.

‘Roma’ projects to be the big winner at the 91st Academy Awards this Sunday. Photo by Carlos Somonte
And The Winner Is: 2019 Oscars Preditions

Who will take home the awards on cinema’s biggest night?

Britney Barber (center) and Samantha Demboski (left) perform in ‘Empty Orchestra.’ Photo courtesy Jet City Improv
Making It Up As They Go Along

Jet City Improv’s retributive actions towards a former player raise issues of the comedy institution’s staff culture.