Sunday, December 6, 2009


The bright, hard surfaces of Gilbert's poems -- shorn of ornament and lyricism, of obviously "literary" devices, adhering to the mundane particulars of an unexceptional life -- have blinded readers to their formal qualities. Just as Courbet and other realist painters of the nineteenth century, who because they sought an "objective" visual apprehension ofthe world, have thereafter suffered the fate of being judged primarily on the basis of their narrative "content", the transparency of Gilbert's means have often obscured the transcendental subversiveness of his ends. By grounding his poetic subjectivity in a culturally assimilated and interiorised photographic gaze, Gilbert seems intent on abolishing the distance between himself and his readers. That this is attempted without self-effacement, self-censorship or restraint, that his "neutrality" arises from within the prejudices and particularities of his experience and personality can be as disconcerting as it is revealing. But what can seem subject-privileged, even egomaniacal, eventually reveals itself as profoundly democratic and utopian.

from Citizen Gilbert, by Peter Culley, March 1992, published by Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, copyright Peter Culley and Gerry Gilbert, 1992.

Photos: Gerry Gilbert photographing Peter Culley.

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