Bad Connection

Showing my father some pictures from a road trip I made around the Southwest, we both laughed over my impulse to frame the picturesque scenery just so to exclude any hint of the ever-present power lines and telephone poles. Luther Thie tackles the proverbial elephant in the room by plopping one down in the midst of Art Engine’s show Beautiful Eyesores.

Turned on its side, with the top portion intruding past some barrier cables, you can get a look at all the little details like the transformers and curled metal steps now bent nearly flush with the pole. The positioning induces a slight feeling of vertigo if you attempt to grasp where you’d normally need to be to view it this closely. It also leads to some amusing reflections when considering it as a member of the class of Found Objects. Its size and the determination it must have taken to acquire and install such an ungainly piece stretches the idea of readymade in an absurd direction. Like Duchamp’s Fountain it forces us to look more closely at a common item aesthetically: the fact that utility poles are both enormous and ubiquitous underscores the good humor. More interesting perhaps is that impulse that my father and I noticed. We do not so much ignore them as erase them from our sight. In part, I began to pay more attention to the crazed rigging of electric cables overhead thanks to Robert Crumb’s fascination with them, and the fact that Japanese anime background artists seem to have an especial love for them. Below is a pic I took years ago at 16th and Bryant with a disposable camera.

Bijan Yashar’s power lines series is a great compliment to Thie’s installation. Some might just qualify as landscapes, the tips of a slanted roof here or a mountain range there, but Yashar soars when he makes us crane our necks and regard the negative space looming overhead. Penetrating into the frames are capillaries of tree limbs as well as the aforementioned jutting bits of architecture. Bifurcating each composition is a power line. The vertical stripe lends an interesting formal aspect, making one regard them less as the background “noise” of our environment. Cutting through space without seeming to touch it, they bear all the two-dimensional purity of ideal lines of geometry: without width but stretching forever.

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