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Reece Terris, "American Standard," colour photograph Plexi-mounted, 54” X 72”, edition of 3.
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"Bridge (Backyard View)"
Reece Terris, "Bridge (Backyard View)," chromogenic print, 2006, 24” X 36”, edition of 10.
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"Interior Views #9: Bridge Street - Richmond (1990's)"
Reece Terris, "Interior Views #9: Bridge Street - Richmond (1990's)," 2008, chromogenic print, 30” X 30”, edition of 2.
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"Bridge (Alley View)"
Reece Terris, "Bridge (Alley View)," chromogenic print, 2006, 47.75” X 47.75”, edition of 1.
February 5 to April 15, 2009
Jennifer Kostuik Gallery, Vancouver
By Michael Harris
An artist is always double. There’s the person who is the “author” or “painter” or “violinist” — the person who commits the act of art-making, about whom we develop a fantastical biography by patching together clues from the work; and then there’s the person proper, the man who pays taxes, walks his dog, is allergic to peanuts.
Reece Terris, though, has gone a long way to reconciling his doubleness. A contractor by day, he remodels homes in the Vancouver area — tearing out rose-coloured bathtubs and stripping mouldering Formica. Occasionally, these castoffs of rapacious remodeling find their way to his studio, where Terris the Contractor morphs into Terris the Artist. He has spent years there constructing Ought Apartment, a six-story tower for the Vancouver Art Gallery’s rotunda installed for this summer — it will be the heaviest (if not the largest) work the gallery has ever shown. Each floor replicates a vintage apartment, from the 1950s to the present time, with each story belonging to a successive decade. The work, monumental in form and conception, is a collage, essentially, of the past half-century’s race through ephemeral built environments.
At the Jennifer Kostuik gallery, nine progress shots were displayed this spring (42”-square C-prints in editions of two). The photos stand in for the work, so the value of his art is perhaps enigmatic — his profile isn’t as high as it might be if his sculptural interventions could be more easily purchased and buyers didn’t need to content themselves with photos that are, in the end, souvenirs of a larger experience.
Still, these progress shots have their beauty. Terris focuses on the interiors of mid-renovation homes, emptied of valuables, furniture and people, but scattered with the detritus of leave-taking — the melancholy of a picture hook on a naked wall, or the creeping absurdity of a yoga ball abandoned in a capacious room. The lighting is ethereal, imbuing each emptied room with some tint of pathos. CD cases, plastic toys, crayon scribbles on walls, all ripple through the photographs like a wake from the homeowner’s passage.
More dramatic are the large photos of Terris’s previous architectural installations, such as Bridge, a work that recalls traditional Japanese spans, and literally bridged Terris’s own backyard with the yard of his neighbor. But gallery walls can only deliver photographic keepsakes (impressive though they are, in scale and execution). Terris’s determined exaggerations of banal city elements, his fantasies on urban themes, live only for a stretch of time. The photographs become partly archival pieces, concessions to the temporary nature of a deviance from “standard” plumbing or city-planned grid systems.
Terris is in the business of both building and destroying, whether he’s at work as a contractor in a suburban bungalow, or weaving through his opening at the Jennifer Kostuik Gallery. But his art, which speaks so strongly to the mania of decor, the ruthlessness of real estate markets, and the determinateness of architecture, deserves some lasting place. That said, such permanence might defeat the purpose.