In Art: The Constructive Process Is Where It’s At

Christopher Pekoc Gallery Image 1
Christopher Pekoc’s Night Visions 1975-2000 at the Tregoning Gallery, Cleveland

When I walked into the Tregoning Gallery on Saturday to see Christopher Pekoc’s exhibition “Night Visions: 1975-2000”, I took one look at a collage comprised of a to-scale black and white photograph cutout of the looming Cleveland Public Library’s Reading Room (see in above photo, far right) and said “Gothic.” The gallery owner looked at me pleasantly and said “Well, not Gothic.” Wince. I see a black and white photo of a big gothic-looking building and it reminded me of something out of Batman – Gotham City, Gothic City, whatever – and “Gothic” because of its ornamental detailing. I can parlay the architecture allusion into contemporary mixed media, right?

But for the next 20 minutes I switched gears to ask about the gallery building itself. The owner told its tale: built in 1905 with roots in carriage manufacturing, it’s still sprouting from the weeds of West Side Cleveland. Just the building made me want to move in and pop an artist’s lifestyle. Shiny floors, thick brick everywhere, lots of open windows, miles of track lighting… (and for real cheap too! according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.)

Back to the art. Pekoc’s collages were striking, yet they were all very different in composition, technique, and construction. His evolution: First Vogue magazine cut outs pasted together on canvas. Then pieces of photos arranged and shellacked, accentuated with gold leaf. Some studies with random materials sewn together, hand stitched as he turned his mother’s machine’s carriage manually, and then glued it all to handmade paper from Cambodia. Then chalk rubbed – layer upon layer, its pigment deepening — into canvas with a thumb. An enormously architectural, to-scale photograph cut out and overlaid with vivid paint (in a fusion of confusion, to me). And on and on.

Collage is my favorite media. I like it best when an artist takes trash, crumples it up, and glues it to a canvas (or a rotting piece of wood. Whatever.). First, I get riled up trying to figure out how it all came about. Then I (try to) calm down, take two steps back, and ask “What the heck was (s)he thinking?”

One other thing became evident. Going too long without submersion into a contemporary gallery renders one absolutely haywire when one gets there. And so I was all over the place. Jumping to conclusions about composition, structure, theme (as with the Gothic example, you often miss the mark!). It was hard to reign myself in as I tried to quickly reconstruct how something was made. It’s ok to take this unleashed, wild ride, but then to really figure out the piece, you’ve got to center. It’s about immersion and getting into the artist’s head. Getting there is the most challenging part. Is that the exercise that art is all about?

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