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.

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