Along a gravel road barely two miles outside of Ames, IA is Black Contemporary, the studio space of Peter Goché. I visited last weekend to get photos documenting Peter's new work, Field Notes.
An incredibly typical Midwest fall day, it was comfortably chilly, overcast, and there were huge puddles and mud circling the drives around the agricultural buildings that Peter works within. He tolerated my obnoxious camera waving and snapping through the windshield of my car when I pulled up. I explained that it was for a blog post about the kook in the old farm building, he nodded, and we started to load in the lights and stands.
Black's Heritage Farm was obviously once a good sized operation. Standing in the space of a city block there are 12 or more buildings, each dedicated to some task of agricultural production. Peter rents the seed drier, a large cinderblock building attached to a smaller building. The smaller structure is the size of a two-car garage and houses an enormous fan. That blows through a plenum which ducts into the second floor's long chamber of Peter's building, Black Contemporary. There are two long chambers centered in the building and six enormous drying chambers, three to a side. The centered spine of the building currently houses an installation piece titled "Chiaroscuro." This fascinating and beautiful two-story installation is composed of multiple instances of sculptural work, viewing portals, a sectioned powder-coated metal screen, and a camera obscura. To move from one area to another you have to be ready to do some ladder climbing of the sort familiar to anyone who grew up around barns or tree houses.
Inside each of these outer chambers is a wall-to-wall metal screen pitched at a steep angle. It is 1/8 to 3/16th inch thick perforated steel that starts by the outside doors at knee-height, climbing to about seven feet high by the back wall. Peter works on top of this surface. The ceiling–exposed wooden rafters, beams, and corrugated metal roof–is about twenty feet above his head.
The wind was catching a loose piece of metal on an adjacent building causing a not-really-but-almost-rhythmic banging. Peter said, "I love that. It's like the old man at the door. He's got something to say, but you don't know if it's good news or bad."
Peter works hunched, perched, and standing a-kilter scraping ink over different surfaces. New work from a nascent series is mounted to the top wall. Materialy congruent with the surroundings and about 12 feet long, it is simultaneously fluid, jangley, pokey, and beautiful (you'll have to wait, I guess). Screws and corks poke into the screen to anchor works in progress, and Peter's few tools of production are the evidence of sliding–a collection of staple guns, pencils, tape rolls, and odd cylinders of various sorts piled along a cleat mounted transversely at the low end of the slope. We worked comfortably for a few hours adjusting lights on tall stands that fortunately did not tip over.
Field Notes is brand new. Currently it consists of three large pieces, a handful of macquettes, and some experimentation. When I was introduced to Black Contemporary in August, there was one large work in progress, and maybe two small macquettes. We're still building up some surprise for it, so you'll have to wait to see the work itself, but it is remarkable, graphically impactful, and potent. Peter scrapes black lithography ink in multiple layers over full sheets of plywood and attaches found detritus (click the speaker icon for pronunciation). The ink captures a sense of gesture and toil, and sinks into the wood either revealing or obscuring the grain, or it oxidizes and contains a shimmering, opalescent black rainbow. Overlaps and the residue of scraping strokes used to manipulate this tar-like stuff pile up into a complex document of work recalling (for me) ridges and furrows, streets, or other organizing principles that never find completion as rigidly ordered as they were initially imagined. Found items are sparingly attached.
It's hard to see Peter's work and not find ways to associate it with the Iowa landscape or with the legacy of agricultural work. It is equally hard to reflect on his art and leave holding anything that small and specific. It generalizes as easily as it specifies. In my opinion it is important to remember that he chooses to work in a strange place where he is surrounded by the memories of human production, of the ways we have found to sustain ourselves, and the ongoing history of this labor, and equally important to quiet yourself and just look, listening to what the work offers free of context.
Field Notes is Transient Gallery's second exhibit. It will open on December 7th in the evening. Mark your calendars now. Details are forthcoming.