Friday, April 23, 2010
And now let us praise famous men. I adore the photographs of Lee Bacchus, a direct heir to the work of Walker Evans, who was a great Depression Era cameraman subsidized by the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s. In an age where so much loudly commands attention, his faultlessly skillful images have the grace to imply, to glance with their knowing immediacy, to reflect a meaning best taken in on the sly, though if you're like me, you will stare at them.
They are immensely subtle, beautifully composed, and often haunted by a sense of the past: Bacchus doesn't let you forget that the city is old. His photographs have a genius loci, a feeling that evokes a place beyond its physical location. It could be a barber shop while watching his son get a haircut, an old movie theatre with its detritus of worn out drawers, a tiny mouldering pizza shop with its crumbling ochre facade and its sidewalk weeds bravely poking out of a crevice, or it could be something as magical as a shot taken on the beach at Spanish Banks. The mysterious box washed up on the shore ... the pinprick of lighthouse light in the distance. This is a glimpse of infinity.
Bacchus is also an extraordinary writer. Check out his website at http://splinterinyoureye.blogspot.com/
Sunday, April 11, 2010
On Saturday a friend and I went to the Equinox Gallery for a showing of new work by Gathie Falk. There were a lot of people there because Gathie always attracts attention.
The critics Ann Rosenberg and Robin Laurence were among those who'd come. There were also Elizabeth Klassen and Tom Graff, Gathie's close friends from way back. I've known these three for a long time, back to the days in the early 1970s when I played cello and finger cymbals in a theatre piece by Tom called, I think, Portable Palestrina at the Vancouver Art Gallery -- one of his unforgettably strange theatre pieces. The song might have been an old, luscious Edwardian tune called It's Never Too Late to Be Sorry, which he sang in his big lustrous baritone that won him a place in the Metropolitan Opera auditions, which he couldn't go onto because as an American, he'd come up to dodge the draft.
Someone I knew back then once described Gathie, Elizabeth and Tom, who lived together in a house in Kitsilano, as "a houseful of elves." But that wasn't accurate and didn't begin to say what they were. Even then I recognized their unique brilliance. Being with them was as close as I'd probably ever come to knowing what it must have been like to be with the Sitwell clique -- Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell.
But there was an element of nuttiness to the Sitwells while Gathie is as sane a woman as you'll ever meet. No one I know has a greater eye for beauty and its infinite vagaries. She'd once made what she considered the perfect waffle and instead of eating it, nailed it to the wall over an archway and believe it or not, it wasn't funny. She was a potter at the time and produced a line of coffee mugs glazed in a mouth-watering color she called "rotten apple red." I longed to have some but was too poor to buy any.
Over the decades she's become an art star with her work collected by major galleries and museums. The most amazing thing about her is the range of what she produces and its absolute consistency of vision within its stunning thematic scope. Many of her pieces are epic in size (she calls herself a conceptual artist though I've never liked the term: what art isn't conceptual, excepting the butterflies and flowers of, say, the Ontario Watercolor Society, but that isn't art, it's mimicry).
Her new show is much smaller in scale, however. It's a collection of still lifes and there's nothing stiller or less magical about them for their littler dimension. Probably they could only be small, like the title piece, which shows a round table top bearing white cups and saucers, a plunger full of coffee, flowers, silverware and a dreamy looking chiffon cake.
It, and all the rest of her pieces, hum with a quiet sense of small pleasures magnified by an aura of, in a phrase that Gathie's used before, "a veneration of the ordinary."