Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Magical World of M.C. Escher, Boca Raton Museum of Art

Although I've seen Escher's works countless times in many exhibits over the years, this was far and away the most interesting, informative and comprehensive view I've seen. He was one of the first artists I had a print by, as a child, and I think most artists in the newbrow art world would agree- his work still astounds, in spite of the familiarity.
This huge exhibit at the Boca Raton Museum of Art has everything Escher - from all his famous woodcuts and lithographs to smaller, earlier commercial works like bookplates. Models, furniture, books, personal items, actual wood blocks and stones and working materials. There are a number of breathtaking renderings, in chalk and pencil, of Italian landscapes from his eleven years spent there. 
The twisted hills, contrasting cactus leaves, geometry of the architecture and rolling shadows, all hinted towards influence in his later works.
Best known for impossible scenarios, optical illusions and eye play in his art, Escher was born in the Netherlands. His father was a civil engineer which surely must have influenced Escher's eye.
One of the  fascinating treats of the exhibit was a dissected look at the evolution of the piece titled "Three Worlds". (above)
On display is the original litho stone, the detailed, preliminary rough sketches and a multitude of prints he experimented with before the final image was chosen. He tried different angles, different numbers of trees and numbers of fish, different densities in the reflection and finally completely flipped the placement of the trees vertically. All but 10 of his stones were destroyed following printing - he would cancel them by scratching an X in the stone so his work couldn't be reproduced. 
Another room contained a really fun exhibit of his works which were pirated and reproduced into psychedelic day-glow posters from the 1960's and 70's.
The entire room was lit only by black lights, offering optimum viewing of these classic head shop staples. The "Dragon" poster I remember owning was here, among countless others, glowing in neon magenta, orange, violet and chartreuse.
 "The hippies of San Francisco continue to print my work illegally," Escher wrote in 1969. A smart move on his part might have been reproduction of his own works in this vein, then he could have reaped the profits, instead of others. Altho he did not appreciate these interpretations, multitudes of others certainly did and still do. 
Even if you think you've seen it all before, if you find yourself in Florida, go visit! It is well worth any travel time and provides much more insight into Escher's art and the process behind many artistic creations, to see all this in person.

Boca Raton Museum of Art, Thru April 11, 2010.