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Dawn Cerny: Les Choses

April 9, 2021 - September 26, 2021

A skeleton of a changing screen is arranged in the center of a gallery space, some of the bones yellow, others white. Scraps of what could be linen are draped over the bars.

The gap between our ideal homes and the lived reality of our overgrown, patched-up, and slightly worn habitats can be an ongoing negotiation at the best of times. Dawn Cerny’s title for this exhibition, Les Choses (Things), references the 1965 novel by French author Georges Perec, which follows a young Parisian couple dreaming of the good life in their overstuffed apartment. Tangible and intangible “things” are at the center of their lives, and the couple is suspended between part-time jobs and dreams of wealth, leisure, and freedom—paralyzed by the vastness of their desires.

Les Choses features sculptures that embody mindscapes. Cerny answers modernist demands for elegance and clean lines with an aesthetic that reimagines the shape of necessity. Like Perec’s novel, objects convey different psychological and emotional states and are the protagonists of Cerny’s installation. Sagging, slumping, leaning, they provide makeshift support for other functional things: a painting, a glass jar, a ceramic vase. They shapeshift into people, places, and blank spaces where their enigmatic titles act as prompts for possible stories, dreams, and memories to be completed by the viewer.

Dawn Cerny (American, born 1979) is the 2020 winner of the Betty Bowen Award. Established in 1977 to honor the legacy of Betty Bowen—an enthusiastic supporter of Northwest contemporary art—the annual award celebrates a Northwest artist for their original, exceptional, and compelling work.

This installation is included in general admission.
Screen from Leisure Activity Area at Eden Lake, 2020, Dawn Cerny, American, b. 1979, wood, handblown glass, plaster tape, epoxy clay, yarn, wire, 77 x 42 x 21 in., Courtesy of the artist, © Dawn Cerny.


April 9, 2021
September 26, 2021
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Seattle Art Museum


Wheelchair accessible, ASL interpretation, Assistive listening devices, Service Animals allowed
Women artist(s)
Event Type
Museum, Visual Art
Pandemic Info


Seattle Art Museum
1300 1st Ave
Seattle, WA 98101 United States
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