Chris Gergley at Monte Clarke Gallery (55 Mill, building 2), through February 6. 416-703-1700. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Chris Gergley's photographs remind me how obsessed we are with style. We qualify our descriptions of people and things with references to eras, movies, designers and architects. We fall in love with clunky second-hand objects because they bring to mind some neglected corner of the 20th century. Many of us have become accomplished collectors of discarded taste. This is part of what makes Gergley's current show of empty Vancouver apartment lobbies so great.
Taken with a large-format camera in the dead of night, the shots, hung in a single continuous line, are cinematic studies of faded interiors left over from the 60s and 70s. The names of the apartment buildings, painted on their glass fronts in chipped gold lettering, read like urban concrete poetry: the Columbine, the Katherine Anne, the Glenview, the Flamingo.
As their names suggest, many are gorgeous examples of bad taste. The Mirador does kitsch Mediterranean: Grecian urns, white drapes and painted Parisian street scenes. The Cedar Terrace, with bamboo wall coverings and heavy carvings, can't decide if it's Polynesian or Chinese.
Pictures of neglected architecture can come off as sentimental or aggressively conceptual. Gergley strikes a balance, following a strict visual logic (each glassed-in lobby provides a frame within a frame) complemented by an appreciation for each apartment's distinct quirks and character.
These portraits of buildings are in every way as compelling as portraits of people.