Ian Byers-Gamber: If They Can Do It, Why Can’t We?

Installation view looking south

Installation view looking southwest

Installation view looking north

Installation view looking northwest

Audrey, Hat-Tipping Skunk (left) and Cain, Dracula (right)

Audrey, Hat-Tipping Skunk (left) and Cain, Dracula (right)

Portraits of puppets - Tap Dancing Frog, The Winds, Demitrius Demistar III, Barnaby Bean, and Balloon Clown (left to right)

Portraits of puppets - Tap Dancing Frog, The Winds, Demitrius Demistar III, Barnaby Bean, and Balloon Clown (left to right)

Bob Baker Marionette Theater re-photographed documentation

Bob Baker Marionette Theater re-photographed documentation and artist's statement

On view: March 18 – April 5, 2019

Closing reception: April 4, 2019 from 8-10 p.m. with a Bob Baker Marionette Theater performance starting at 8:30 p.m. This evening event is co-sponsored by the Pomona College Art Department and the Pomona College Museum of Art: Art After Hours.

Last summer Ian Byers-Gamber was invited by the Bob Baker Marionette Theater to document primarily their theater, but also the puppets and puppet shows, as the building which they have inhabited for the last five decades will soon be demolished. The project that includes eleven architectural images and a few of the audiences and puppet shows will soon go into the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library and the LA Office of Historic Resources as a document of this landmark theater. In addition to the specifically documentary photographs that Byers-Gamber has made, there will be large black and white and color photographs that the artist staged with the puppets and their puppeteers.

Byers-Gamber is a Pomona alumnus who majored in Media Studies but shortly thereafter took up documenting art exhibitions, some of which include the Chan Gallery, Machine Project, Pomona Museum of Art, as well as other arts institutions across Los Angeles. Not so long ago, he audited a black and white photography class and has been producing bodies of silver gelatin prints ever since. Recently he has taken up printing color pigment prints. All this work has been done here at Pomona College and we wanted to honor the work and Byers-Gamber as he has been so much a part of our community since graduating.

In conversation with Byers-Gamber, he has said that he draws inspiration from the New Topographics movement, specifically the work of Lewis Baltz. But he also mentioned that he is inspired by the staged portrait photography of Deana Lawson. Both of these seemingly contrasting styles will be represented in the works shown here. They are documents of spaces and people inhabiting spaces that force the viewer to engage with the staged presence of the subjects represented in the photographs, whether those be puppets held in pose by their puppeteers or formal documents of the theater’s interior and exterior spaces.

Tricia Avant

P.S. Special thanks to Pomona Museum of Art folks, Gary Murphy for framing and installing the works, and Justine Bae for collaborating via Art After Hours for the theater performance. Both Gary and Justine are comrades of Ian Byers-Gamber as he is a Pomona alumnus who had worked with them at the museum here at Pomona College for the last several years. Special thanks to Lucas Wrench, PO'13, for his graphic poster with essay titled The Bob Baker Conspiracy that viewers can take away with them. And special thanks to Lisa Anne Auerbach who provided access to photo facilities and support for Byers-Gamber to complete this work here.

Installation photos above by Ian Byers-Gamber