“Bunker, Half Moon Bay, May 2, 2017” by DeWitt Cheng.
A dozen years ago, DeWitt Cheng, a former painter and now a Bay Area art critic, bought a small Canon digital camera to help with his reviewing of gallery and museum shows. Gradually he began taking pictures of the urban environment glimpsed between stops on his rounds, and this became a habit and eventually something of an obsession. Nowadays he posts photos nearly every day on Facebook, many of them focusing on the Sunset District, where he lives, and on Ocean Beach, just a few blocks west on Taraval Street. The photos resulting from his perambulations—hence the title, Pedestrianism, depict the scenic beauties of the Bay Area—cloudscapes at dusk over the Pacific, and beautiful, eclectic architecture—but also the less-than-perfect aspects of daily life in the region: odd and mysterious conjunctions of architecture and daily life—cars, sidewalks, garages, shadows, windows—that are held together only by rigorously organized compositions of balanced or counterpointed shape and color.
The artist looks back to the Depression-era documentary photographer Walker Evans, whose name befits his style of ambulatory image-hunting. Evans memorialized vanishing nineteenth-century America and captured the emergent industrialized culture of twentieth-century America; he synthesized memory, nostalgia and a love of the vernacular into a kind of democratic epic: a vision of the human presence reflected in its artifacts and architecture. Cheng sees his daily adventures as recording the transition of San Francisco from its past of Victorian gingerbread and “little boxes” suburban housing to a high-density, high-rise city. Aside from any historical value, however, the works are records of an idiosyncratic, attentive eye responding to the secret spectacles of everyday life.
Far Out Gallery
3004 Taraval St. at 40th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94116
Open Thursday – Sunday noon-6 p.m. and by appointment