Jerry Pethick: Shooting the Sun/Splitting the Pie

One of the current exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery is Jerry Pethick’s Shooting the Sun/Splitting the Pie. I found this whole exhibition very fascinating and rather overwhelming. Pethick hails from Vancouver Island and produces such a variety of work that it is quite difficult to take in. How does one even begin to describe it?

One of Jerry Pethick's installations in False Creek, Vancouver
One of Jerry Pethick’s installations in False Creek, Vancouver

Pethick was a consummate polymath with a formidable knowledge of art and cultural history, as well as perceptual science, complemented by an inventor’s unique sensibility for the visionary potential of basic materials. From his pioneering holographic constructions in the late-1960s to the multi-dimensional, lens-based sculptural works that followed, Pethick maintained a primary concern with disrupting expected ideas of perception and the experiential nature of art.

Canadian Art, 2008

Many of Pethick’s installations are constructed from found objects and recycled items. The first piece that I came across was a rather big spherical shaped sculpture made of burnt out tungsten light bulbs. The light bulbs looked as if they were attached with chewing gum (but it probably wasn’t gum). A little further on he had made a similar sculpture, just a little smaller, but this was a portrait of someone, complete with spectacles.

One of his pieces, however, related to photography and this was an Array Camera that he had built in 1988. The camera has 99 lenses which takes simultaneous view points of the same subject to produce a photo array. The resulting photograph can be seen here. The actual camera itself resembles the photograph with regards to the placement of the lenses. I have to wonder if this is some sort of pinhole camera though, as I can’t imagine that it uses film.

Other photography related sculptures or installations that Pethick has done are large scale arrays made with printed photos of a 5 x 7 inch size behind large coloured glass circles, called Fresnel lenses, which hang suspended in front of the photographs. The lenses almost act as magnifying glasses and one has to do a little dodging in front of the installation to see through to the photograph situated behind. There were quite a few of these array installations dotted around the floor in varying sizes.

Focusing on questions of perception and knowledge, as well as revolutionary moments from the history of Modernism, Pethick engaged in a life-long pursuit of a sculptural idiom grounded in virtual space and transparency.

Vancouver Art Gallery

Pethick’s work is definitely difficult to pigeon hole into any one category and I think this is what makes it so interesting. More of his work can be seen here.

Reference List

Jerry Pethick (2008): Visionary Giant [online]. Canadian Art. Available from: https://canadianart.ca/must-sees/jerry-pethick/ [Accessed 12 November, 2015]

Jerry Pethick: Shooting the Sun/Splitting the Pie [online] Vancouver Art Gallery. Available from: http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/the_exhibitions/exhibit_pethick.html [Accessed 12 November, 2015]

Pethick, Jerry. Flash Por­trait, 1988 (Photo-array on enamel) [online]. Catriona Jefferies. Available from: http://catrionajeffries.com/artists/jerry-pethick/works/#43 [Accessed 12 November, 2015]

Pethick, Jerry. Array Cam­era, 1988 (99 lenses, wood, felt, game board, glass, plas­tic pipe) [online]. Catriona Jefferies. Available from: http://catrionajeffries.com/artists/jerry-pethick/works/#42 [Accessed 12 November, 2015]

Pethick, Jerry. Wheel­bar­row and cabin, 1987–1988
(Glass, plas­tic Fres­nel lens, insta­matic pho­tos, flo­res­cent light fix­tures, sil­i­cone, alu­minum) [online]. Catriona Jefferies. Available from: http://catrionajeffries.com/artists/jerry-pethick/works/#47 [Accessed 12 November, 2015]

Pethick, Jerry [online]. Catriona Jefferies. Available from: http://catrionajeffries.com/artists/jerry-pethick/works/ [Accessed 12 November, 2015]
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