Dream Come True

Ken Barnes, Reclaimed oYo

Ken Barnes at Shift Gallery through Oct. 27, 2018

Stephanie Hargrave

Ken Barnes’s new show at Shift is called oYos. While in Japan one year, he was given a round stone to carve, but taking it home became a conundrum. To make room for his socks and also reduce the weight, he drilled two holes all the way through, and bingo – the oYo was born. In Seattle, he refined it further and realized he had created a form worth exploring further. He now carves about one oYo per year when he finds a well-suited stone. He’s been dreaming of doing a show of all oYos for 15 years, and his dream has finally come true.

I imagined the word oYo was somehow related to the form itself. I saw the two holes as the o’s and the remaining stone as the Y, but in fact, it refers to the location in Japan where he was – he simply truncated Toyota, and thereby made up a word, a form, and a practice.

His pieces all have distinct personalities depending on the features of each stone. Beach oYo is a sand colored travertine, Argillite oYo is green and smooth, and MX oYo is Mexican Onyx. The one that really stands out to me, however, is Urban oYo – a large chunk of concrete housing a variety of smaller rocks within. They pop in hues of olive, green, mustard, yellow, off-white, bright white, grays, blacks, mottled browns and veined neutrals. They are so smooth within the light gray concrete they look meticulously painted – instead they’ve been meticulously polished which defines their crisp edges. The whole piece spins on a pin an inch off a rounded wooden base. The holes are large enough to put my arms through completely, and I feel the cold of the stone as I do this, wondering how something so cold can be so very inviting.