Gather, Seattle Asian Art Museum

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Client: Seattle Asian Art Museum

Location: Seattle, WA, United States

Completion date: 2020

Artwork budget: $150,000

Project Team

Artist

Kenzan Tsutakawa-Chinn

Studio 1Thousand

Curator

Xiaojin Wu

Seattle Asian Art Museum

Fabrication Lead

Matt Stevenson

RUSHdesign

Overview

“Gather” is an elegant LED sculpture that celebrates the Fuller Garden Court in the newly restored Seattle Asian Art Museum. Originally built in 1933, the landmarked art deco building was renovated and expanded by LMN Architects in 2020 and the new plan restored the Court’s significance as the museum’s central hub. At 2,300 sq ft, the Court not only connects the entry lobby to the exhibition galleries, it also functions as a flexible event space. Suspended from the skylit ceiling, the 26x48x10 ft artwork is light-weight yet bold in gesture, serving as a memorable canopy for events held in the Court while visually and thematically connecting the space to the museum’s esteemed collection of Asian art in the adjacent galleries.

The artwork references traditional Asian hand-crafts, particularly textile design, through mass-manufacturing practices, modern LEDs, and electronics. Made from 390 individual chip-on-board LED elements that are mass-produced in China, the artwork transforms everyday objects into an ethereal light sculpture. Its suspension-based construction and hash pattern is a nod to ikat weaving and sashiko sewing techniques. The cross-motif stands out in front of both light and dark backgrounds. Using gravity-based catenary curves to form its asymmetrical form, one end

Goals

The Seattle Asian Art Museum requested an artwork that would activate and soften the newly renovated Fuller Garden Court, the museum’s central hub that connects the Entry Lobby to the exhibition galleries. The artwork needed to be lightweight yet dynamic, taking care not to stress the structure of the glass skylit ceiling. Also, it was requested to not obstruct the floor space, a major event space for the organization. Additionally, it was our goal to create a piece that not only responds to the architecture of the space, but visually connects the Court to the Museum’s collection of Asian artworks housed in the adjacent galleries.

Process

We worked closely with the Museum and our fabricators, RUSH Design, to create a piece that is visually dynamic, light-weight, and sensitively constructed in order not to damage the glass clearstory ceiling during installation.

Much of the look is based on extended conversations with the fabrication team, as to what new LED technology is available on the market vs. what would need to be custom fabricated. To meet financial requirements, off the shelf components were required to be the foundation of this design. These limitations were discussed as opportunities with both parties suggesting different visual inspirations. One earlier idea suggested that we may be able to make flexible LED constructions, leading to thoughts about “LED Fabric”.

This “fabric” concept dove-tailed nicely with previous study in Japanese textiles while meeting the client’s installation needs of a very lightweight structure. Studio 1Thousand also relied on its expertise in integrating new elements into existing, often historic, structures with minimal intrusion.