Shit gets real at the Blanton's new exhibit

<i>Bremen Towne</i> by Keith Edmier
Bremen Towne by Keith Edmier


Blanton Museum of Art, 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 512/471-5482
Through Sept. 22

The Blanton Museum of Art's "Lifelike" is a lot of fun. It's the kind of show that simultaneously elicits the reactions, "Man, art is stupid," and "Whoa, that is so cool." It's also a lot of art to capture in just 450 words.

Divided into five categories – Common Objects, the Uncanny, Realism Into Abstraction, Handmade Sleight of Hand, and Special Effects: The Real as Spectacle – and employing a wide range of techniques and materials, "Lifelike" destroys any notion of reality as a shared objective experience. Hell, it makes us question our versions.

I'm thinking of New York, New York, New York, New York, a four-channel video installation that depicts scenes of New York City from television and movie sets, part of the Special Effects component. The point of the piece isn't how realistic the sets look but that they are interpretations of NYC that define the city for millions of viewers. The sets sit eerily empty, and though we know they're "fake," we can't help but feel a sense of despair ... until a studio worker drives by on a golf cart.

Let's also consider Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) #8, by James Casebere, which looks like a photograph of a real town but is actually a photograph of a model of a real town. Or the opposite—digital photographic prints of Esteban Pastorino Diaz, which use the tilt-shift technique to make real scenes look like miniature models.

I'd be remiss to ignore the Ripley's: Believe It or Not quality of the show – the way certain pieces in the Common Objects section look like giant versions of mundane objects but are made of traditional art materials, such as bronze, canvas, and paint. Pieces like Paper Bag by Alex Hay and Plywood with Roller Marks #3 by John Clem Clarke can be seen as one-liner jokes, but they're also meant to draw attention to the fact that our realities are made up of many more ordinary, utilitarian objects than impressive toys (stereo systems, cars) or works of art.

There's so much to think about: a series of untitled gouache on paper pieces by Dike Blair that create abstractions out of household scenes; works like Forever Young by Susan Collins and Empty Room by Peter Fischli and David Weiss that look unfinished; or the seemingly familiar items like a stack of newspapers or an ashtray full of butts sitting in random corners.

For me, the highlight was the detail of Keith Edmier's Bremen Towne, which felt every bit the same as standing in my parent's first home in Toledo, Ohio, except for the part when I looked out the door of the "sculptural re-creation" to see Chuck Close's amazing Giant Self-Portrait hanging on the museum wall.

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