By Anna Weltner
Gucci models will be giants. Their purses could crush you.
On the side of a building, a tiny speck of a man repairs a light fixture while a group of enormous youths obliviously enjoys a Coke. Panty-clad bottoms wrapped around double-decker buses find temporary top halves in unsuspecting rooftop riders.
Everyone snaps photos in Times Square. But not like Tom Peck. In fact, the Paso Robles photographer’s “Urban Aggregates” series, which documents Times Square’s fluctuating landscapes between 2006 and 2010, are more collage than snapshot. Peck’s series makes up half of the current “Twisted Visions” show at Paso’s Studios on the Park.
The other half is Kevin Bohner’s simply titled “Color on White” show, an exhibit of four pieces of sculpture consisting of steel and concrete. A solid white base supports a chaos of color, in three out of four cases resembling a 3-D scribble.
The way Bohner casually describes how he pressed this piece just so with a backhoe, and those ones over there with the help of his trusty hydraulic bender, listeners can be forgiven for imagining he’s an independently wealthy young eccentric with a penchant for industrial-strength playthings. But it turns out he pours concrete for a living and has a totally blue-collar reason to have such equipment at his disposal.
“I got into sculpture through foundation work,” Bohner explained. “I use the hydraulic bender more for artwork than for actual work.”
For a piece titled Teal on White, the one that required a backhoe, Bohner painted rebar teal and mounted it on a concrete base. The result looks strangely prehistoric, like some spiny plant dinosaurs once chewed to aid their digestion.
“Twisted Visions” presents two differing but complimentary perspectives. But what exactly is it that these bodies of work have in common? Is it their twistiness? Bohner’s sculptures, with the exception of one nonconformist, resemble doodles or tangled cords. Peck’s photos, too, are often skewed, off-kilter—excepting the image of the Gucci models dwarfing taxis and pedestrians.
Both artists have also conspired to create a wholly contemporary exhibit. Both mirror what they see on the street, often peppering it with a unique brand of humor. Peck spent all afternoon on the sidewalk waiting for a red vehicle to cross by a red billboard and saturate the frame with color. Bohner is inspired by guerilla-style street art by the likes of Banksy.
“I love graffiti,” Bohner said. He calls his work “the sculpture version of graffiti.”
Look a bit deeper into Peck’s portfolio, and you’ll notice he has a few guerilla tactics up his proverbial sleeve. Peck spent considerable time snapping clandestine photos of people on the New York City subway for a series he titled “Watch the Closing Doors.” None of them gave their permission; in fact, if they noticed what he was doing, they typically told him to stop. Peck would hold the camera at thigh level and nonchalantly use his leg to point and shoot. It must have looked awfully creepy. The resulting photos are intentionally blurred, ghostly, intriguing portraits of people in motion.
Peck and Bohner also like to play with perspective. Peck does it by capturing eerie shots that warp the sense of scale, like one image of a couple in a passionate embrace, paying no heed to the tiny toy bus driving by—or at least it looks like that’s what’s happening. His black-and-white photography often works as an equalizer, pulling background into foreground, everything suddenly flat and surreal looking. Peck aims to fill every inch of his photographs with stuff, so that there’s no room for sky, no way to get oriented.
Viewers of Bohner’s work see different sculptures depending on where they stand. Much of his bent-metal sculpture is composed of a single, hopelessly knotted-up piece, that casts a different silhouette with every viewer’s step.
Walk around one piece—a green tangle with a row of stainless steel prongs sticking out of it—and for a moment it holds the shape of a cactus. It briefly resembles a monster with great big fangs before devolving into a mere blob. Initially, Bohner wasn’t happy with the shape of that one, he said. Unable to start over (and unwilling to waste the metal), the sculptor planted the toothlike steel prongs on the two biggest loops. Suddenly, the piece felt complete. What it is, he can’t tell you. That’s up to you. It’s an abstract piece of coral, maybe. Or a hairy ovarian cyst. Bohner’s titles disclose nothing.
So there we have it. One rad exhibit, two very different artists, and zero regard for the writer who would be required to fumble wordily around, trying to make it all jive on paper. I’m actually still not sure what these two have to do with each other. They just have some kind of weird chemistry, that’s all. It’s just that when they’re together, everything feels so right.
A playground for the eyes
“Twisted Visions” is Tom Peck’s “Urban Aggregates, Times Square” series (photography) in cahoots with Kevin Bohner’s “Color on White” sculpture series. The exhibit displays until May 31 at Studios on the Park, 1130 Pine St. in Paso Robles. Call 238-9800 or visit studiosonthepark.org for hours or more information.
Arts Editor Anna Weltner has chemistry with buses and subways. Send bus tokens to email@example.com.