Left Bank Books

Oct 13, 1999 at 4:00 am
Kit Keith's investigations into the iconographic imagery of midcentury Americana continues to be enriching, as with her window display at Left Bank Books, Bibliography. Keith has arranged a number of her "books," a small piece of luggage with a pair of stockinged gams painted on the side, and three unfunctional birdhouses in the window on the McPherson Avenue side of the store. Centering the display is a dingy canvas with the painted image of an African-American man in brown Dobbs, white shirt and tie, lines painted like whorls in wood grain surrounding him, and the illustration of a book opened before him with text that reads: "Jackson lived in a quiet house on Crum Street, not far from a big highway. He became entangled with a woman who drank and swore. He loved her. He was a good man. He passed away early in his life." The painted image has all the perverse irony and gentle melancholy that is emblematic of Keith's work.

Keith defines "book" as objects bound into a rectangular form. Old, dust-encrusted, barely identifiable materials are sandwiched between pieces of wood or cardboard. An old Lucky Strike pack serves as a cover image, as does a rusted star tacked to a faded red square of thin wood. Crushed, filthy plastic water bottles are wrapped in a cardboard skin by strips of brown gauze, copper wire and tubing. A birdhouse dedicated to Charlie Parker has "Bird" scripted in pink on the side, an illustration of the musician's broad face on the roof, and a fairly inconsequential stick barely holds its place as a perch.

Keith says that while she was setting up the display a passerby commented, "Those look like they were made at the turn of the century." And, indeed, they were. Her work is of this time, and yet of another time, and about the way time attaches emotion to all things.

In Left Bank's basement gallery, Dean Kessmann exhibits new photos taken "on the property of a company which fabricated large concrete forms." With images of the detritus of the industrial landscape, Kessmann tricks the viewer in regard to scale with these photos, so what seem to be vast gray lakes may in reality be small puddles; massive boulders could be small stones.

Rather than offering depictions of environmental degradation, Kessmann reveals an austere beauty in the varying degrees of gray. A stretch of white material among gray stones has the look of snow or sand. Pale green water is surrounded by stones with a soft reddish hue.

People have long gone to barren, austere landscapes for spiritual renewal. Kessmann imbues the concrete foundry with a most romantic perspective: Lhasa in cement wash.

Bibliography and Altered Landscapes continue at Left Bank Books through Oct. 24.