Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Leopard Realty Postcards (1970-1971)

What a surprise to find in my mailbox yesterday an image from Eric Metcalfe's Leopard Realty Postcards (1970-1971) reproduced on the cover of the latest issue of Geist (#89). The four re-touched postcards that comprise this work (as found inside Geist, and crudely re-photographed above) were originally part of a six-card sequence that appeared in Metcalfe's 1992 Return to Brutopia survey at the UBC Fine Arts Gallery. That two of the postcards have since gone missing parallels the disappearance of a city into the pattern and recurrence of global market forces (in this instance, real estate speculation), a pattern and recurrence similar to the leopard spots Metcalfe used to signify the onslaught of Brutopia.

If, in a hundred years from now, art as we know it still matters, Metcalfe's Leopard Realty Postcards might well be seen as the artist's finest hour: a work that reflects not only the artist's participation in the New York Correspondence School, but also a conceptual art that was emerging at the time of its making. Further to that, the presence of the artist's signature motif is related to his 1970s performance persona -- that of Dr. Brute -- who could be found accompanying another Western Front founder, Vincent Trasov, as he danced about town in his Mr. Peanut costume.

For me, Metcalfe's motif functions similarly to the painted monochromatic fields employed by another Vancouver artist, Ian Wallace, in his photo-paintings, the best-known (at least as an instigator of the post-conceptual photo-based practices that this city is known for) being his hand-tinted Mélancolie de la rue (1973), a work that gives us, amongst other things, three instances of architecture: the (squatter's) shack, the (tradesman's) house and the (architect's) modernist -- and Brutalist -- museum.

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