For over thirty years, Patrick Cummins has wandered the streets of Toronto, photographing its ever-changing houses, garages and storefronts. Straightforward shots chronicle the same buildings over the years, or document the length of a block, facade by facade. A distinctive feature of Cummins’ project is his focus on “unimportant” architecture. As critic John Bentley Mays notes, “Important buildings, Rosedale or Forest Hill mansions…and most things postwar, do not interest him.”
As an artist who pays systematic attention to the city’s vernacular architecture, Cummins shares much in common with the work of German collaborative duo, Bernd and Hilla Becher, who spent close to 50 years documenting the overlooked industrial architecture of Europe. Like the Bechers’, Cummins’ organizes his photographs so that audiences can compare similarities and track changes over time. His ‘collations’ present photographic chronicles of the same building seen from the same angle over decades, while the artist’s ‘typologies’ present similar structures, such as laneway garages, Gothic cottages, or variety stores, as grid compositions. Falling somewhere between architectural photography and a visual history of the city, Full Frontal T.O. looks at buildings that typically go unexamined, creating a valuable document of street-level Toronto.
The exhibition launch will coincide with Coach House Books’ publication of Patrick Cummins’ Full Frontal T.O. (2012).