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Inversion: Plus Minus is a 60-foot high sculpture taking shape on SE Grand Ave. Parts one and two of the three-part piece stand at the Hawthorne Bridge. Part three will be completed this summer near the Morrison Bridge. The artists are Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo who go by the moniker Lead Pencil Studio.
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The $700,000 Corten steel sculpture comes courtesy of the Portland Streetcar project which is subject to the city’s percent-for-art program requiring 2 percent of any publicly funded capitol project be spent on art.
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Han and Mihalyo trained and met at the University of Oregon’s School of Allied Arts and Architecture. Now based in Seattle, they work across the country and in TK earned the prestigious Prix de Rome.
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Their work straddles the lines between sculpture and architecture, embracing the vaster possibilities of art at the scale of buildings. “I love seeing a tiny drawing or reading a sentence that takes me out of this world,” Han told the UW blogger Kate Murphy. Above is their 2003 sculpture in Seattle, Stairway.
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“But what we find,” she added, “is that there is no substitution for the real experience of physically moving through and perceiving space at a 1:1 scale.”
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Lead Pencil Studio has created pieces at gallery scale, such as Minus Space, an installation for the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle.
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Han and Mihalyo have done other permanent outdoor sculptures such as Non-Sign 2, completed in 2010 at the border crossing in Blaine, Washington.
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Optical illusion is a Lead Pencil specialty.
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Non-Sign 2 is made of welded steel.
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Made of common scaffolding and blue mesh, it was built to the exact proportions to the Maryhill Museum, but erected like a mirror image across the Columbia Gorge from the museum.
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The duo describes their work as being “about architecture with none of its function” and as “architecture in reverse.”
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As Han told Murphy, “We explore some of the ineffable qualities of light, form and space alongside social and cultural influences by isolating individual ideas . . . rather than making functional spaces. . . Restated more simply, we’re creating functionless architecture to get at a liberated form of spatial exploration.”
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For their next project in Oregon, Lead Pencil Studio will transform the old morgue at the Oregon State Hospital into a memorial for the controversial unclaimed “cremains” of one-time patients.
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Lead Pencil’s project itself became controversial when ardent historic preservationists opposed any changes to the old morgue building.
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For the Hawthorne Bridge portion of Inversion, Mihalyo says the goal was “basically rendering a couple of buildings that once stood there.” The Central Eastside neighborhood, he adds, “has a lot of filigree-type structures. There’s a lot of billboards made out of angle iron and a lot of orthogonal gridwork for power as well.” The area, he notes, is “going through a huge transition that could turn one way or another. I know there’s a lot of work being done to keep it mixed use and a manufacturing area. There’s a threat of large scale housing with the streetcar. So we really wanted to comment on that.”
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