Cris Bruch

Fuller/ Elwood Gallery

Cris Bruch seeks to engage himself intimately with the urban environment, the way that primitive peoples connect with the natural world. Toward that end he turns much of his daily life into rituallike performances or tasks. Pressure drawings, such as Washington Third Yesler Second, 1989, are the result—the formal record—of his self-described “treks.” Lugging large sheets of paper around a city block, he picks out significant landmarks along the way: manhole covers, brick patterns on a wall, the texture of wheelchair-slopes at the curb. Using graphite, crayon, and wax, he rubs these patches of information into the paper; this punctuates the journey that he has taken, giving it a pulse and form. These mostly black and white patches of information also serve as an emotional history of the process he has gone through. They are experienced, not as static representations of the pedestrian life of the city, but as the experience of that life brought alive in time; a kind of elemental tune runs through them. Bruch hangs Main Fourth Washington Third, 1989, from a makeshift rack welded together out of discarded concrete-reinforcers and other found metals, while a ratty old shirt is strewn over garden-fencing below. This three-dimensional rubbish reiterates the sense of transience contained in the trek, while the fitting together suggests the grammar that fixes the whole in memory.

Six Burdens, 1989, presents a different kind of task Bruch sets for himself. Six dark steel pieces have been molded into the shape of satchel-style briefcases with handles. A word is incised into the front of each: LIZARD, DECAY, MILK, JELLY, LESS, CHORUS. The words are like emblems of communal faith—WORK, FAMILY, CHILDREN—but here they take on a more symbolic and abstruse character. The objects are physically quite heavy. Bruch bears them around the streets of the city as a devotional act, a material proof of his commitment to the world around him. Performing such burdens becomes a kind of self-remembering. Are some people in our urban environment (artists, skid-row alcoholics) so wildly out of touch with their fellows emotionally that they seem to be of a different species entirely? This may be the paradox of the tasks Bruch sets for himself. The more you want to pierce the shell of the urban superstructure and connect with its inner life, the more out of this world you appear to those firmly bolted to its surface.

Jae Carlsson