San Francisco

Lutz Bacher at Ratio 3


Lutz Bacher, Installation view, 2012. Courtesy of Ratio 3, San Francisco

With Lutz Bacher‘s exhibition, San Francisco’s Ratio 3 creates a stark contrast to the surrounding neighborhood. Once the gallery’s heavy black doors close behind you, the vivid colors of Mission Street are abruptly shut off. The jagged, cavernous space is given over to stark black and white, or, to be more precise, irregular spatters of black on a white or light grey surface.

Lutz Bacher, The Celestial Handbook, 2011. Image Courtesy of Art Fag City

The first thing one notices are small black spheres strewn about on the floor. The spheres — black stress balls — shift as the viewer moves about the space. On the walls are a selection of Bacher’s series The Celestial Handbook, eighty-five framed offset-printed book pagesThe framed pages contain black-and-white images of galaxies and nebulae paired with short academic captions. Besides giving factual information, the image captions express the book author’s admiration of the cosmic vistas’ expansiveness and beauty. While reading the captions, one recalls the language of a catalog of exquisite items. It seems like the author, astronomer Robert Burnham Jr., just could not suppress the inclination to visually perceive his objects of study. The aesthetics of these tiny images of vast spaces become echoed in the floor installation, giving form to the intangibility of the cosmos.

The notion of space is emphasized throughout the entire exhibition. The framed images are placed at a considerable distance from each other, and the floor installation oscillates between its reference to tiny stars, planets, or subatomic particles – a true play between the macro and the micro.

Lutz Bacher, Installation view, 2012. Courtesy of Ratio 3, San Francisco

The adjacent room is smaller and dimly lit. The floor installation continues, as a sound installation begins to come into focus, and a voice stutters Puck’s words in a Midsummer Nights Dream saying “If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended.” The only object to adorn a wall in this secondary space initially appears as a black mirror. On close inspection the wall piece reveals a darkened, slightly obfuscated photograph of Robert Pattinson’s character, Edward, from Twilight. What is he doing there? The image shocks the space out of cosmic mystery and serenity, forcing me to reflect on Bacher’s choice of images which seem to belong to that special class of pictures that are almost too trivial to admire. Yet, the unsettling nature of the darkened vampire photo, the stammered rhythm of Shakespeare, the way the shades of black fold together, the tactility of the stress balls under one’s feet, amount to a transformation of the familiar and the banal into something much more captivating – something that lies just outside of what can be truly known.

Lutz Bacher runs at Ratio 3 until November 3.