Alexander Keyes: “doodling, speculating, lusting”

Detail of rocket by Alexander Keyes. Photo courtesy of the artist

This year, the winter solstice falls on December 22 to mark the longest night of the year. By chance, I just checked out a curiously unfinished and whimsical installation by Alexander Keyes in the Woolworth Windows at S. 9th & Commerce. I’m glad I did – this work definitely gives a psychic kick to the last, dark days of winter.

Keyes’ 9-word artist statement is as suitable a mantra as any for 2016:

always be doodling
always be speculating
always be lusting

“If I follow these rules, I will make more art,” he says. “If I follow these rules, I am given permission to play in the studio, crafting narratives about making rocket ships and going to the moon. The reward for good work is more work. And I want to keep working.”

Rocket man: Alexander Keyes. Photo courtesy of the artist

Keyes’ Artspace installation for Spaceworks Tacoma is in progress. One of his trademark built forms, the rocket, is made here from humble materials including scrap wood and layered cardboard. Additionally, he plans to install spare furnishings, bookshelves and other homey touches and to continue working inside the window during January. This will enable passersby to visually access his “domestic space”, and intimately follow his creative process.


In an earlier Keyes’ work, the ocean is framed as “a site of potential fantasy and open possibility.” Photo courtesy of the artist

A recipient of artist residencies in the US, Norway and Portugal, Keyes has repeated experience in constructing temporary domestic space, a ritual that haunts his work. In its present state, it’s impossible to judge if that space is being moved into or abandoned. Past Keyes installations have been constructed around the idea of a journey by sea. The new narrative is “of a journey via rocket ship to Europa, a moon of Jupiter” told through a series of model rockets of varying scale and complexity. His sticky notes, lists and “doodles of the rockets and stars I dream about” will be visible on work surfaces while he builds 3-D art.

The process for this undertaking can be described as that of the “amateur hobbyist,” he says mildly, an impression played up by the presence of basement-workshop staples: a much-loved, slapdash shelf; a few books, everything but a worn pair of slippers. (His densely written project proposal, however, seems inspired by Saint-Exupéry‘s The Little Prince filtered through the sensibilities of a deconstruction theorist.) The downtown window he inhabits represents yet another anonymous temporary residence whose confines he must exploit within a given time frame, before moving on.

IMG_1049-1An accomplished young sculptor, Keyes earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Puget Sound in 2010, and received the International Sculpture Center’s Outstanding Student Achievement Award in Contemporary Sculpture, the same year. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Oregon in 2014.   -By Lisa Kinoshita

Follow Alexander Keyes’ work at the Woolworth Windows, S. 9th and Commerce, through March 17, 2016.