I had the opportunity to photograph the Agnes Etherington Art Centres newly acquired Rembrandt, Head of Man in a Turban a number of years ago, and as the work was being wheeled out of the room, I noticed the back was covered in bits of paper, labels and other markings that seemed significant. This was the beginning of the B-Side series. This new exhibition of photographs is drawn from the historical European collection of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, Ontario. The exhibition runs from January 11, 2020 to August 9, 2020. The works are photographs of the backs of paintings, printed on rag paper, and mounted on painting stretchers constructed from poplar and bass woods.
The backs of the works reveal a plethora of information not found on the front, with all the practical matters of artwork manufacture and presentation leaving their traces. There are marks from the stretcher makers, the restorers/conservationists, auctioneers, collection managers, collectors, the transporters and accidents. This project is a tribute to the collective effort of many hands that guide a work into our consciousness.
The photographs are printed to the same scale as the original works and mounted on to the stretchers as one would mount a canvas. Through this act, the artist is imbuing the photographs with a desire to become “real” art objects. That they may already be real art objects is not really the point. The photographs don’t feel like they quite belong in that world. You can almost hear them whispering Pinocchio’s mantra:
Fake it till you make it