Go See – New York: Evan Penney at Sperone Westwater on the Bowery through March 26th, 2011

March 22nd, 2011

Evan Penny, Michael, Variation #3 (2010), via Sperone Westwater

Walk one block north from the New Museum and you will find Evan Penny’s exhibition at Sperone Westwater, open until March 26th and presenting a collection of five oversized, hyperrealistic sculptures of human figures that bridge the gap between art and spectacle.  The gallery is also currently showing  work by Emil Lukas.

More text and images after the jump…

Evan Penny, Jim Revisited (2011), via Sperone Westwater

Due to their eerie realism combined with an exaggerated scale and anamorphic perspectives, the sculptures are both striking and uncanny. Penny uses a combination of silicone, pigment, aluminum, glass and hair to painstakingly build the figures, based on real models whose photographs have been digitally distorted, and clothes them in oversized versions of their original outfits.

Evan Penny, Exhibition View, via Sperone Westwater

Evan Penny’s work appears suggestive of the work of Ron Mueck, also known for hyperreal oversized figures,or Duane Hanson, but the most marked difference between Mueck’s or Hanson’s work and that we see here is Penny’s use of a distorted perspective in most of the pieces. The first work encountered upon entering the gallery, Jim Revisited is a 15-foot naked figure whose contrapposto pose is reminiscent of Michaelangelo’s David. As the viewer circles around the work, its form shifts unsettlingly, assumably due to the fact the the works were originally based on photographs; while they exist in space, they only read properly as human form from a certain correct angle, as would a two-dimensional photo. This produces a uniquely dizzying sensation, repeated upon encountering Michael, Variation #3, and seems to contain a reference to Renaissance painter Hans Holbein’s notorious painting The Ambassadors.

Hans Holbein’s – The Ambassadors with anamorphic skull

Evan Penny, Young Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Was (Not), Variation #1 (2011), via Sperone Westwater

Evan Penny, Old Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Will (Not) Be, Variation #2 (2010), via Sperone Westwater

The second floor of the gallery offers a bird’s-eye view of Jim Revisited, and features opposing self-portraits of the artist, one as a young man and one predicting his appearance closer to the end of his life. According to the press release, their placement facing one another “reveals Penny’s self-reflection through a continuum of time, and alludes to the subjective nature of memory and desire, and how photographic images inform and distort perception and representations of the Self.” The floor ends in a in a massive elevator (a wall sign reads “The Moving Room is Stationary for this Exhibition”), which contains another bust, in this case a woman, which has been elongated and flattened to the point where it is only somewhat readable as a portrait. As does each of the other pieces in Penny’s show, the sculpture plays with the disparity between the nature of the form and its understanding based on everyday perception, forcing an active viewing and questioning of the nature of figurative art.

-K. Sundberg

Related links:
Exhibition Page [Sperone Westwater]