ART SEEN: Lowly dust reframed as a metaphor for the 20th century

The organizing image in the exhibition at The Polygon Gallery is as wide as my outstretched arms. It’s by Man Ray of a dust-covered pane of glass in the studio of Marcel Duchamp. Its size gives it a presence on the wall. At the angle it’s taken, the surface looks like it’s covered in numerous dust bunnies that could, with a little imagination, double as bales of hay in a farmer’s field. It also has geometric shapes – lines, ovals, curves – because the pane was photographed at an intermediary stage of becoming The Large Glass, considered one of Duchamp major works. The shapes reminded me of the Nazca Lines in Peru. It’s an image that flickers between small and big.

The original photo is called Dust Breeding. Curator David Campany follows the image from 1920 when it was taken through 20th century art history in A Handful of Dust: From the Cosmic to the Domestic. Photography, it turns out has been instrumental in helping people see dust in a way that probably wouldn’t have been possible without the all-seeing eye of the camera.

What happened is that I had a completely different experience of the exhibition. Instead of the celebrated image interesting me, I got sidetracked by one of the lesser known photographs.

It’s a gelatin silver print of The Library of Holland House Library, Kensington, London, after air raid, 1940 (shown above). The caption says that the photographer is unknown. It looks like it could be the kind of photograph meant to illustrate the effects of German bombing on London. But there’s no indication it was ever published in a newspaper. It’s apparently a fairly well known image in the United Kingdom although I’ve never seen it before.

I love the way it depicts three men in hats looking, touching and holding books in a library where the roof has collapsed. Above is grey sky instead of a ceiling. The charred beams of the ceiling have fallen to create a triangle shape in the middle with the apex pointing down into the rubble.

Its such an absurd images it looks like something right out of Monty Python. I imagined it as a variation of the Dead Parrot Sketch. In this case, one or all of the men might

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Entertainment


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