New York

Richard Pare

Sander Gallery

It’s understandable that many of Richard Pare’s photographs would be of buildings; Pare is the curator of photography for both the Canadian Centre for Architecture and for the Seagram Collection of architectural photography Several of the large color photographs shown here are almost homages, with the title indicating not only where and when the picture was taken, but who designed the building depicted and when it was built. Not that his photographs are simple; Pare makes no attempt at the kind of straightforward, fully lit, foursquare overview of a building that is a staple of this kind of work. Instead he focuses on the details of the structures, framing, for example, the arched doorway and capital of an adjacent pillar in his Tempio Malatestiano, Leon Batista Alberti, 1446, Rimini, Italy, 1984. Pare is interested less in the spectacular element of these buildings—the impact provided by their overall forms—than in their more intimate aspects.

The photographs are taken from the point of view of a person physically close to the building, or inside it; because of this they suggest the everyday life of the building and the uses people make of it. For example, Leda and the Swan, Casa Pilatos, Seville, Spain, 1983, provides a glimpse into the corner of a room in which a dark freestanding pillar sits, while next to it, on an ocher wall, hangs a marble bas-relief of the Greek myth of the title. This photo is so simple and unassuming that it’s not hard to imagine the residents of this house stepping into the frame.

At the same time, Pare’s photographs have their own expressive integrity, with the buildings serving as complex, formally challenging subjects. Thus in his photograph of an interior pillar in Capella di Pazzi, Brunelleschi, 1430, Florence, Italy, 1979, he includes a patch of light, thrown by an unseen window, which both echoes the shape of the pillar and sets up a dialogue with it. In other pictures he emphasizes the implicit dramas that can be set up by skillful cropping, and occasionally even turns them into arch jokes—as, for example, when he frames a low twisted black tree next to the pristine geometric surety of the building in Schroeder-Rietveld House, 1924, Utrecht, Holland, 1982.

A number of pictures are of landscapes rather than buildings. But once again these are not traditional landscapes, in which nature is presented as a primal state beyond the reach of man; Pare’s landscapes are used, lived in. He finds the same sort of precise order in the natural settings he photographs as in the buildings: trees planted in even rows on a tree farm or in a windbreak; regular swaths cut across a newly harvested field; stone fences snaking up a hillside. Pare’s photographs are about more than just buildings and fields; they have to do with the process by which people impose an order that suits their needs on the already existing order of the world. This statement is true of both architecture and agriculture—and, for that matter, of photography.

Charles Hagen