Tripping over blood

Troy Gua's pop-eerie monument in Tacoma is a solemn memorial to the people affected by our contemporary wars

Last night I went south to check out what Seattle artist (and friend) Troy Gua has been up to over the last several months. He opened a show at Fulcrum Gallery of his recent, widely-popular pop hybrid paintings, plus a newer body of work titled Monument.

Fulcrum is a smart gallery just up the hill from downtown Tacoma. What once was the domain of the infamous Hilltop Crips now feels like a fresh, vibrant neighborhood.

I was amazed by the Seattle artist contingent (Shaun Kardinal, Sharon Arnold, Cristin Ford, Amanda Manitach, Kate Protage, Chris Sheridan, Laura Ward, just to name a few) who made the trip down to check out the show. It just goes to show how strong and supportive the Seattle art scene is becoming. Warms the cockles of my heart. (I've been trying to use that line for a long time.) Much fun was had: good conversation, a lively crowd and a live DJ spinning from the back room. Gallery owner Oliver Doriss throws a great reception.

The crowd in front of Gua's pop hybrid series

And Troy's pop hybrid pieces were lovely. But I was more interested in Monument. The nature of the work, and the choice of exhibiting specficially in a Tacoma gallery with Fort Lewis so nearby got me thinking about the current Iraq/Afghanistan wars. Especially the piece titled Monument: thirty-odd individual tile figures made in the style of generic bathroom men/women icons, but with missing limbs and parts, looming over a red glossy reflecting pool. It was beautifully eerie. Pop-eerie.

It is no small leap to view the reflecting pool element, as Troy put it, as a metaphor for blood. Not dirty, messy blood, but more of a glossy, manufactured blood, the kind of blood that might be government-approved. An effect only spoiled by the unfortunate exuberance of a patron, who, when walking up to Monument, perhaps hypnotized by the pop gore, tripped on the reflecting pool, knocking it over. How she missed the 4x 6 floor installation of such vibrant color is anybody's guess. I stopped trying to figure that sort of thing after my first three years of museum art-guarding.

Troy Gua with his Monument

Repairs were quickly made and I was able to look at Troy's two other installations, which both present mutilated plastic dolls (one in a sculptural assemblage of individually encased limbs, the other in very glossy series of portraits of the mutilated doll figures) as symbols for the broken bodies of modern soldiers. The effect is that of taking the very real pain and suffering of soldiers and packaging them in such a way that we end up just swallowing the product. Thanks government!

Or, as Troy puts it, "the work is a memorial to loss...terrific horrors that our service men and women are experiencing that I can scarcely imagine."

I applaud Troy for this exploration and fresh take on such a challenging subject; and especially for the bravery of installing a show such as this in the heart of a community so directly tied to and affected by the war.

You should go see this show.

—Ryan Molenkamp


Troy Gua's Monument is on display at Fulcrum Gallery through March 13. Hours: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 12:00pm - 6:00pm.
Don't mist the Artist's Talk on February 18.

Ryan Molenkamp is a painter and writer living in Seattle.