Saturday, October 23, 2010

THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL DIG: Update on The Exquisite Object

The Exquisite Object (c) Estate of Ivaan Kotulsky
In my September 30th post, I wrote about The Exquisite Object, an unsigned, undated piece of Ivaan's work that I had found among his archives. At the end of that post, I expressed a hope that one day I would know more about it.

That was three weeks ago.  A lot has happened since then.  One of the most important (and still secret) things that has occurred requires me to organize Ivaan's photographs.  This is no small undertaking.  By 2006, Ivaan had amassed a collection of over 700 film cameras.    They were mostly classic cameras from the 1940s onwards, but a few dozen were the old "folders" that dated back to the beginning of the 20th century. We  kept them in a warehouse building two doors away from our house on Portland Street, along with the additional lenses, flashes, tripods, bins of film in odd sizes, camera cases and assorted paraphernalia that goes along with a camera collection of this size.

Ivaan didn't just collect cameras; he used them.  For many years, he shot a roll of film a day.  His photography fell into three different categories:  he photographed his metal art and jewellery, he documented the street life
around him, and he chronicled people's lives - not necessarily people he knew, but people who caught his imagination somehow.  Ivaan's filing system was quirky in the extreme.  He had his film processed, but didn't necessarily make prints.  Instead of identifying the sheet of negatives with a useful description, it was more often "Mamiya 3, f5.6 at 30, Tri-X Pan, clouds".  It worked for him, because he was more likely to remember what camera he was wearing than the date he took the photo or the name of the person in the photos.

All that to say, it's been a long week sorting photographs.  My reward, however, has been the discovery of a photograph of the original wax carving of The Exquisite Object.   Ivaan has photographed it against a background of open rubber jewellery moulds, which enables me to date The Exquisite Object with some precision.  It's either 1979 or 1980, because the rubber moulds are part of his original Tutankhamun collection for the  Art Gallery of Ontario.  This is a real revelation, because I'd always assumed The Exquisite Object was made much later.  He used different colours of wax, so the detail really stands out in the photograph.
The Exquisite Object, circa 1979.   (c) Estate of Ivaan Kotulsky

My next wish is to understand the context for the creation of this object:  was it a commission?  Was it inspired by something he'd seen somewhere?  Is there more than one version?  The finished version above is not identical to the wax original.  Note how the protrusions at seven and nine o'clock on the finished product appear on the wax (at eleven and one o'clock in the photo directly above) as dark lines.  It's as though the piece evolved over time.

In future posts, I'll feature some pictures of the cast of characters Ivaan photographed over the years.
I'll also explain why I'm organizing all his photographs - once it's no longer a secret.  Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. The exquisite object, you sure have the right name for it. It looks as if it is alive! S