Anthony Gerace has a knack for creating images that grab your attention and invite closer inspection. His project There Must Be More to Life Than This is an intriguing collection of tiled collages created using vintage ads. People Living – another collage series – combines photographs and lettering with colourful scraps of paper to striking effect.
Gerace’s portfolio spans graphic design, art and photography. He has created album art for indie band Arthur Beatrice and US musician Devon Sproule as well as editorial illustrations for the New York Times and the Guardian. He also takes photographs of buildings, people and landscapes.
He is based in London, England and grew up in London, Ontario – a small city a couple of hours’ drive from Toronto. He started taking pictures in high school and experimenting with collage a few years later.
“My mom and dad were both amateur photographers in the 70s and 80s and so I grew up with a tangential relationship to the arts. I bought my first camera when I was 15, and started taking pictures of the construction yards around my house, and they both really encouraged me,” he explains.
“I came to collage around the same time through zine culture and self-publishing, but it wasn’t until a few years after I’d moved to Toronto, when I was in my mid-20s, that I really took an active interest in images and that was through making posters for parties and gigs that I’d throw,” he adds. “From there things just kind of gelled into what I do now, with a few detours here and there.”
Gerace studied graphic design at college and worked as a designer before focusing on art and photography: “I came to graphic design through collage and through posters, thinking that was what graphic design constituted, and so I tried to build a design practice out of non-commercial work,” he explains.
This background continues to inform his work: “I focus a lot on typography and formal structures in what I do,” he says. Even his photographs have a graphic quality – whether images of peeling shop signs in faded seaside resorts or sparse desert landscapes in the US.
Gerace’s work is driven by experimentation rather than concept. Most of his work comes out of playing with materials and images but there are some recurring themes – all of his work is in some way inspired by “time and memory and material, and how they relate to one another”.
There Must Be More to Life Than This was created by cutting up and reassembling ads from the 1940s and 70s. The collages are built from a single source, with photographs of smiling men and women cut into pieces and reassembled to create something abstract. These images are frustrating in their incompleteness – as a viewer, we want to rearrange the tiles or fill in the blanks to make a whole – and Gerace says they speak to the idea of searching for coherence and completion.
The project began in 2011 as a series of commissions for a band he was playing in but quickly became its own thing.
“I was working working on my thesis at the time, and had a very tough but very good thesis advisor who wouldn’t let me settle into any of the ideas I presented to him. So I spent my time making collages and trying to get out of my own head. When I moved to London it became a bit more vocational and that’s when the title emerged. Sitting at the living room table of a flat I hated, missing all of my friends in Toronto and cutting out tiny squares of paper, all I could think was, ‘there must be more to life than this’. The conceptual elements of the series came much later, after I’d been working on it for a long time, but they were absolutely guided by the repetition,” he adds.
“At the outset they took a couple of days each, and by the time I was finishing everything off, which was five years after I’d begun the series, I could do a few per day. It got to the point where I was dreaming about squares and seeing everything as a potentially broken down grid. It was weird.”
Gerace has exhibited the series in London, Italy and the US but says he would now like to put it to rest for a while: “While I’m not sure it’s done … doing it now, outside of doing it in a commissioned capacity, seems like a bit of a retread,” he adds.
His other collage projects People Living and Abstracts / Miscellany were created alongside working on commercial and personal projects – Gerace describes them as ongoing experiments rather than a finished series. Both are assembled from scraps of vintage ads and Gerace says they have led to commercial work as well as a new personal project.
“A lot of my new work – work that’s still very much in its initial stages – takes those two series as a point of departure and tries to bring in different methodologies and themes and make it a bit more pointed. Like a lot of what I do … I’m not entirely sure of where it’s going, but I’ve been finding the process of getting there pretty enjoyable,” adds Gerace.
Gerace splits his time between working for clients and developing personal projects and says he gets an equal amount of satisfaction from both. Commissions tend to be influenced by personal projects. In turn, working within the constraints of a brief will often “push” his personal work forward or take it in a new direction.
Gerace considers Roe Ethridge and Collier Schorr among his inspirations – photographers that blur “the definition of what photography is and can be, and the line between commission and art, in a way that I find really inspiring,” he says.
He also credits Sam Contis with making the best photo book of 2017. Deep Springs is a collection of photographs from an all-male liberal arts college in the mountains of Sierra Nevada. “[It] is such a haunting body of work, and the things I’ve taken away from seeing it in a gallery vs seeing her talk about it vs engaging with the book itself have all been different but have also been equally important. She’s amazing and I love her work. I can’t want to see what she does next.”
Gerace has just been signed to Blink Art in London – so we’ll likely see much more of his work in the near future. He is developing a new series that combines photography and collage and what he describes as “a large-scale landscape project” in Hokkaido, Japan.
Gerace’s work is inspired by a love of experimentation. As his upcoming projects demonstrate, he is keen to continue exploring new techniques and formats rather than treading familiar ground – an approach that has worked well for him so far. “I feel like I’m at the start of a new phase of my career, so I’m pretty excited all around,” he adds.