Magic Realism: Material Illusions is on view at the Wood Turning Center through July 17, 2010.
The term “Magic Realism” is most often used in a literary context to describe work in which an accumulation of plausible elements constructs an impossible whole. In this spirit, the Wood Turning Center has organized an exhibition of sculpture in which various materials mimic other materials to form a whole that is itself a further illusion. Illusion is implicit in visual cognition. In one sense, it is visual cognition. We perceive things through several senses: our way of knowing; but perception is itself a mediator, a veil between the self and whatever reality may exist outside.
The art historian Ernst Gombrich made a strong case that the artist’s paramount goal is to make something real. He also emphasized, however, that both artist and audience draw on a shared language or “schema” to complete an illusion. The success of a representation depends on the audience’s knowledge of and acquiescence to the schema. Such schema can be seen to extend to conceptual art which evolves from patterns of signs in the representation of ideas.
The work in Magic Realism has convincing solidity. Each piece exists in space and deploys a multitude of small truthful details to build a reality that is simultaneously believable and unsettling – impossible and valid. These sculptures bewitch vision and cognition. They tell us that our experience and understanding are powerful, mysterious and ultimately unfathomable as are our codes of communication, our history, behavior, and dreams.
- Robin Rice, writer and independent curator
The Wood Turning Center, 501 Vine Street, Philadelphia, PA.
Selections from the exhibition follow.