by D. Dominick Lombardi
M. C. Escher (1898-1972) has been a favorite of mine since the 1960s when that decade’s psychedelic, counter-culture mindset saw common ground in his transformative work. Escher’s art made it possible for all of us to see the impossible, to experience dimensions of space and time that were previously unimaginable. He combined math, architecture and science with a unique aesthetic in viewing the world around him, as it all coalesced in his brilliant mind resulting in the creation of a good number of incredibly iconic images.
I was lucky enough to have visited galleries in SoHo as a young man in the early to mid 1970s when the Vorpal Gallery on West Broadway held a handful of Escher exhibitions. Just beginning my journey as a fine artist, I was fortunate to have seen his brilliance at a time when I had such a great need for seeing anything and everything profoundly intriguing, wildly enlightening and fully thought provoking and Escher’s art fit those categories perfectly.
So here I am, almost 45 years later in an adjacent borough in Industry City Brooklyn, where I find myself at the press preview of Escher: The Exhibition & Experience thanks to my correspondence with fellow art industry professional, Loredana Amenta. The exhibition, which winds through a number of adjoining rooms is beautifully installed and perfectly lit to maximize the experience of seeing such a vast array of the master’s work. Curators Mark Veldhuysen and Federico Giudiceandrea, working with Italy’s premiere elite exhibition producer Arthemisia and Architect Corrado Anselmi the exhibition comes alive with interactive and participatory highlights that get visitors right into the middle of the mindset.
Most successful is the clear and intuitive timeline used that includes Escher’s most famous mind-bending works such as Drawing Hands (1948); Metamorphosis II (1939-40), a woodcut that took 20 blocks to produce this miraculous mix of patterns and transitions across a span of over 12 ½ feet; the hauntingly precise Eye (1946); Relativity (1953), along with similar works represented here that have influenced many artists since, including the makers of the feature film Inception (2010); the mesmerizingly beautiful Three Worlds (1955); and perhaps his best known work Hand with Reflecting Sphere (1935), which is accompanied by an interactive installation where visitors can see themselves in the same composition.
But don’t get me wrong, this noble effort and installation is not just Escher’s greatest hits. This exhibition is a fully realized; an all-inclusive retrospective featuring everything from his early stunners such as The Second Day of Creation (The Division of the Waters) (1925), where you can feel the cold conundrum of a violent sea being ravaged by rain; to Print Gallery (1956), where Escher himself could not solve the center of this twisting composition. There are preliminary sketches where he is working out his composition and the woodblocks themselves, where you can see just how, why and where he made his incredibly precise cuts. I could go on and on, but my best advice is not to miss this most important exhibition. We all need some time to get away from the day-to-day politics and general upheaval on all sides and get our sense of wonder back and this is the place. Escher: The Exhibition & Experience is located at Industry City, 34 34th Street, Building 6, Brooklyn, NY.