BRICKS: Photographs by David Pace

12 September 2013 - 26 October 2013

Bricks: Photographs by David Pace is the California artist's first solo exhibition with 511 Gallery. In this project, large color prints describe the men working the Karaba brick quarry in the West African nation of Burkina Faso, a place to which Pace has traveled each year since 2007, almost always with photography students from Santa Clara University, where he teaches. An earlier Burkina Faso series, Friday Night, viewed the weekly dance nights of villagers at an outdoor "club" setting in Bereba.

Pace's approach to his subject, whether people, landscape, or people in their landscapes, is neither straight-up documentary nor is it with specific subjective intentionality. It is street photography without streets. The Karaba quarrymen have what are deemed important jobs; they are paid well enough to support themselves and others in the village; and they are looked up to by their peers. Those are the facts of their existence, and yet the photographs do not tell us that, do not announce either personal success or hardship. Rather, Bricks unfolds for the viewer, in a series of decisive moments in the quarry, the visible facts of workday life for these men - the implements and processes they use (hand picks and shovels to dig out the bricks from the stone) and the interactions they have in the quarry, with other workers and, subtly, with the photographer.

In the tradition of photographers such as Atget, Robert Frank, William Klein, and Brassai, David Pace takes pictures of people going about their business in a landscape that also is shown to us without bias. Several workers are shot in frontal, posed positions, smiling or stone-faced; but most are shown at work, individually or alongside others. And the landscape itself, though blindingly beautiful, is revealed to us as primarily just a physical workplace. What we take away from the scene is, by induction, a sense of how bricks are formed and extracted from the landscape, how they will be used to build new buildings and structures in the landscape, and how foundational they are in the lives and communities of Burkina Faso. David Pace walks a thin line between observer and participant in the scene of both people and landscape. What is unusual is that Pace is doing it with a digital camera and producing highly saturated, glowing color prints, neither the usual practice of street photography.

David Pace's Burkina Faso photographs were recently exhibited at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Massachusetts, the Southeast Museum of Photography in Florida, and the galleries of Gensler, Inc., at Rockefeller Center. The artist took his B.A. from University of California, Santa Cruz, an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and his M.F.A. from San Jose State University. He lives and makes work in Los Altos, California.