His masterfully composed images remind us of the beauty inherent in the architectural vernacular of our surroundings. His work features timeworn facades of once proud churches, main street storefronts displaying nothing other than their age and weathered billboards with their waning pronouncements – all vestiges of a former era, connections to the past. “Evans,” as the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University’s website says, “had the extraordinary ability to see the present as if it were already the past, and to translate that knowledge and historically infected vision into an enduring art.”
Buildings, as Walker Evan’s photographs confirm, provide ideal surfaces and exposure for various forms of graphic proclamations – signs, wall paintings, posters and mosaics. These temporary adornments may be distant cousins to architecture’s carefully considered, permanent surface embellishments such as friezes, frescoes and stained glass, nonetheless, they can play a role in understanding a structure’s history. They may not define a structure’s legacy, but they certainly add to its character.
Throughout Ontario, in both urban and rural settings, one can see examples of fading graphics on warehouses, mills and retail stores. These once bold messages are now ghosts of their former selves – slowly and reluctantly losing their voices. Having said that, when you happen upon an example, they immediately signal another time, forcing us to look closely at the building and imagine a bygone era. A remnant has a funny way of engaging the imagination.