February 20 & 21, 2010
No one traveling down Greenville Avenue would have taken a second look at the Washington Mutual building that sat stripped of its corporate brand and unused until Saturday night. The uninviting shell of a bank, surrounded by a chain link fence, drew in a crowd of Dallas gallery goers like a magnet.
Construction of the bank at 5030 Greenville was completed just in time for the government to seize WaMu. The company’s failure created a shiny, new and completely useless symbol of our new economic reality. Modern Ruin is an exhibition organized by Christina Rees and Thomas Feulmer in which 15 artists displayed and created work with the resources of the soon to be demolished building.
The exhibition took over the whole of the bank, from the front door to the drive up pneumatic tubes in the rear of the building. Upon entering you were immediately confronted with Noah Simblist’s Double Trouble – a bleak statement painted in the entryway while broken noises filtered in from Jeff Zilm’s video piece. At the center of the would-be bank was Frances Bagley’s work Teller Ring, a large stuffed teddy bear made of money-printed fabric, and watchful eyes inserted in light fixtures appeared above and below you. In a piece by Thomas Feulmer visitors were able to trade items for stamped dollars via the teller tubes with a man in a space suit. Throughout the exhibition Cameron Schoepp installed bags of water in the ceiling that dripped into buckets on the floor. The space was an unusual balance between the creative works and the destructive impact of the artists on the building, foreshadowing the future destruction of the building itself.
Though the art ranged from subtle to performative, the atmosphere of the re-purposed bank unified all of the works contained with a feeling of strangeness and both a connection to and defiance of their site. This atmosphere of strange destruction was well communicated to visitors who stole peepholes from Terri Thornton’s piece the big picture, from public to private. In the end, WaMu created a million dollar venue for the critique of a crisis it helped to create.
Modern Ruin was open to the public for two days only, and will be demolished this week.