Big Books

Giuseppe Arcimboldo's <i>Vertumnus</i>
Giuseppe Arcimboldo's Vertumnus

Masters of Deception: Escher, Dalí & the Artists of Optical Illusion

by Al Seckel

Sterling Publishing Co., 320 pp., $24.95

Way back in 16th-century Milan, Giuseppe Arcimboldo introduced optical illusion to high art in a series of paintings depicting human faces composed of various objects. He became famous in his own right and inspired many imitators. Problem was, he was so good that it took four centuries for anyone to equal him. Enter the surrealists, chief among them Salvador Dalí, whose drippy, far-out compositions set the tone for an entire generation, including the dimension-bending M.C. Escher, whose Belvedere (featuring the "Impossible Cube") and Waterfall paved the way for many of the artists featured here. Most impressive among them is the Japanese graphic designer and shadow sculptor Shigeo Fukuda, whose Lunch With Helmut On – a bulbous mass of 848 pieces of welded silverware that casts the shadow of a motorcycle – brings the medium into the third dimension. Fukuda has also built 3-D models of Escher's drawings, as well as reflective sculptures of Arcimboldo's fruit-faced Vertumnus. Also showcased in Masters of Deception is the mirror typography of Scott Kim; the digital, geometric spin cycle of Akiyoshi Kitaoka; the Chuck Close-inspired portraiture of Ken Knowlton; the Dalí-esque Mexican Octavio Ocampo; and the spherical worlds of Dick Termes. Masters is the perfect holiday companion for that special stoner on your shopping list. Trippy, dude.

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