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Winnipeg
Steven Leyden Cochrane
Peter Tittenberger at Gallery 1C03, Winnipeg
March 31, 2015

Closing on Saturday at the University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03, Him and Me is Peter Tittenberger’s first solo exhibition in almost thirty years. While the work is firmly rooted in place (Winnipeg’s North End, where the artist grew up and still lives), it’s notably – though perhaps understandably – adrift in time. The title itself points to one unresolved temporal conflict: the “Him” here is Tittenberger in the seventies and eighties, a photographer, while “Me” is him today, a ceramicist, found-object sculptor, and recently minted BFA. As sharply as he attempts to draw the distinction, though, the line between past and present selves is seldom clear.



Peter Tittenberger

Tittenberger has taken it upon himself to walk every street and back alley in Winnipeg, a long-term survey he’s nearly finished. The walks help him understand his home city, but they also provide him with scrap wood, junked furniture, and mechanical bits and bobs to use in assemblage sculptures. If the process of acquiring that material speaks to an attentiveness to his surroundings and a desire to operate in the present moment, the sculptures themselves betray an irrepressible fixation on the past.

Finely crafted and all the prettier for the weathered condition of their scavenged parts, reminiscent of furniture and housewares but distinctly non-functional, the sculptures that make up North End Kitschen Party are both abstract and insistently nostalgic. Like half-realized relics from a Proustian bargain store, they haltingly reconstruct memories of Tittenberger’s North End upbringing.



Peter Tittenberger

More captivating is It cannot but be true, a series of newly collaged and manipulated Polaroids first shot in 1979 and then abandoned. With a woodworker’s eye to precision, Tittenberger refits the indistinct images and watery fields of colour-saturated emulsion into seamless architectonic constructions and near-plausible landscapes. The nostalgic tenor persists, but the collages’ intractable strangeness drags them (to their great benefit) from “reminiscence” into “fugue state.”

Framing his work as a means of giving order to lived experience, Tittenberger invokes contemporary developments in information science – tag clouds and other ad-hoc systems of digital classification. At first this seems at odds with his evident (and acknowledged) mid-Century precedents, artists like Louise Nevelson, Joseph Cornell, Lucas Samaras, and Richard Long. It can also seem like an oversell of work whose aesthetic forms skew decorative and (in 2015) somewhat generic. It does, however, help give shape to Tittenberger’s sentimental brand of Modernism. Having systematically surveyed and catalogued his career, his city, and his passages through both, he consults the archive, leveraging the raw data into a wistful, expressive, and highly individual vision. It’s an anachronistic approach in some ways, but one more compelling for being stridently out-of-step.


Gallery 1C03: http://www.uwinnipeg.ca/art-gallery/programming/2014-15/peter-tittenberger---him-and-me.html
Peter Tittenberger: Him and Me continues until April 4.


Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.

 

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