May 02, 2005
Life is incredibly complicated


SFMOMA has just put up a retrospective of one of my favorite Bay Area artists, the lesser-known-photorealist Robert Bechtle. I remember coming across a Bechtle for the first time at SFMOMA, crica 1991, and stopping in my tracks; though I knew next to nothing at the time, here it was, the thing itself.

I wonder now, if you aren't from California suburbs, can you get Bechtle? There is the light -- here, this is what I mean, and this -- and the subject matter, which is all Bay Area all the time. (An homage of sorts, and also see Henry Wessel's House Pictures.) But also, the work is so photographic, so interested in plumbing the depths of what a superficial snapshot, a single moment of little interest, can mean and not mean, I wonder if non-photography people feel the same thing, looking at a Bechtle.

Peter Schjeldahl writes about Bechtle in the New Yorker this week: "Though derived from the click of a camera, the image has none of what Roland Barthes termed a photograph’s “punctum,” its quotient of inaccessible pastness. In “ ’61 Pontiac,” time balloons forward, backward, and sky-high. I sense the droning, sheer duration of days in suburban neighborhoods in mild climates, an immensity laced with a familiar terror: boredom, our foretaste of being dead. Nothing can happen there.... In this and many subsequent works, Bechtle is a fascinated diver in the ocean of interminable American afternoons."

Posted by dbrown at May 02, 2005 09:39 PM
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