finding sudoku

A doodly, drifting, playful state of mind prevails in Bill Pechet’s new installation. Finding Sudoku comprises more than 100 small objects assembled in a kind of conceptual cloud on the walls and floor of the Helen Pitt Gallery. These found, altered, or newly manufactured items range from a miniature moss garden, a cast-concrete sponge, and a line of pistachio-nut shells drawn on to resemble faces to floral decorations, painted pebbles, and a basket constructed out of toothpicks. Augmented with a charming little bookwork, Brancuzzi’s Hope, and six of Pechet’s notebooks, they reveal the teeming mental state that occurs somewhere between the full realization of a creative idea and the banal details of daily life.

Pechet is probably best known as a designer and architect; he and his business partner Stephanie Robb represented Canada at the 2006 Venice Biennale of Architecture. His notebooks, which also function as sketchbooks, scrapbooks, address books, appointment books, teaching plans, and doodle pads, reveal other aspects of his lively intelligence. In between solving formal and structural problems related to his profession, he indulges in poetry, wordplay, cartooning, social satire, and drawings both serious and fanciful. Into this mix are injected the most prosaic details of daily life–doctor’s appointments, ferry schedules, phone numbers, and dinner plans.

An element of kitsch is introduced through the miniature music-box mechanisms attached to the wooden shelves on which the notebooks sit. Kitsch, cuteness, and intentional banality also inform the assortment of objects crowding the gallery walls, such as a Kleenex-box cover adorned with gold glitter, a teensy toy bunny, and a “Minerals of Canada” sample sheet. The sweetness of childhood past resides in toys, miniature marshmallows, birthday candles, and especially in the recurring motif of plastic honey containers shaped like cartoon bears. Pechet’s fascination with odd scale and unlikely materials is seen throughout the show, including in various castings of the honey bears in concrete and tinted resin. With the addition of an LED, a clear-resin version also functions as a wall lamp.

The antiheroic and antimonumental aspects of Pechet’s installation are not unusual in certain strands of contemporary art. They do, however, position him outside traditional architectural practice and constitute a subtle critique of his profession. This sweet contrariness is not entirely surprising, however, coming from the man who, with his partner, filled the Canadian pavilion at the Venice Biennale with an enormous, orange, polar-fleece sweater. Wraparound warmth and weirdness.

Review by Robin Laurence, Georgia Straight, September 27, 2007

finding sudoku
Helen Pitt Gallery, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Bill Pechet