Caskets Become Art with Boxes of Death 5

A group exhibition on mortality, for which 50 artists alter coffin-like boxes

by Hunter Hess


What started out as an art school project in the cramped basement of Seattle’s OK Hotel has quickly grown into a respected touring showcase of both rising stars and well-established figures within the art community. Already in its fifth year, “Boxes of Death” (an exhibition for which 50 artists are each given a coffin to work with) has added new venues and attracted talented artists on a regular basis.

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The show’s creator Patrick “Duffy” De Armas emphasized the importance of striking a balance between emerging talent, well-known international artists and creators working outside of the traditional mediums. “I wanted to bring in different levels of artists with different levels of involvement and manipulation of the boxes themselves,” De Armas tells CH. “I’ve always been a car and motorcycle guy so I wanted to bring in more so-called ‘lowbrow’ artists from the hotrod and customization world to participate in the show,” he explains, while showing off a coffin-shaped gas tank submitted by custom motorcycle builder and tank painter Denis Babin.

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Through repetition of form, the show allows each artist’s unique style and themes to be clearly displayed. An overarching goal of the show, as De Armas explains, is to “address death and mortality in a non-intimidating and approachable way.” Allowing the artists creative freedom, while at the same time remaining constrained to an instantly recognizable shape that’s rife with cultural symbolism and meaning, created opportunities for artists to explore both serious explorations of mortality and more light-hearted approaches to death, such as Craig Wheat’s “Casketball.”

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New partnerships with Seattle’s Roq La Rue gallery and backing from Juxtapoz Magazine have provided the show access to a caliber of artist not previously seen in “Boxes of Death” collections. The show just kicked off in Portland, with openings are coming up at San Francisco’s Gauntlet Gallery (8 October 2014), followed by LA’s The Chun (11 October 2014) and Seattle’s Piranha Shop (17 October 2014).

Images courtesy of Patrick De Armas