Seattle Weekly 3/09

Layered mapping charts troubled urban histories

by Adriana Grant

In his fourth solo show at Howard House, Matthew Picton works in Duralar, paper and stick pins to create evocative urban landscapes shaped by war.

Israel is shown in three permutations (1936, 1947-1967 and 2007) with the vagaries of history depicted in clean lines that belie embattled borders, then and now. An uneven, orange-and-black contour maps a wall currently under construction, separating Israel from Palestine.

The most striking work depicts the street map of 1930 Hiroshima, splayed on a mattress-size light table, so many white boxes delineating what had been a clean city grid. One of its several elongated sections is reminiscent of a map of Manhattan.

Picton has lived in the U.S. since 1990, though he was born in London and studied history at the London School of Economics and Political Science. For his rendering of Washington, D.C., Picton has conjured some sort of violent incident in our nation’s capital. The white paper map of Washington D.C., seen from above as series of open cubes, has been burnt systematically, looking bombed out — and eerily beautiful.

“Matthew Picton: Postwar Landscape, An Urban History” is at Howard House, 604 Second Ave., through March 28. Hours: 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Free; 206-256-6399,