Feature

Lifelike

The artwork in this “clever and entertaining” traveling exhibit compels visitors “to look, and then look again.”

Blanton Museum of Art, Austin
Through Sept. 22

The artwork in this “clever and entertaining” traveling exhibit compels visitors “to look, and then look again,” said Jeanne Claire van Ryzin in The Austin American-Statesman. A sense of mischief abides from the very start, where, just above the entrance, 12 pencils dangle overhead, stuck into the ceiling tile. You read them at first as likely the result of “an irreverent act by a bored security guard.” But look closer and you might notice that each projectile is an artist’s re-creation of a pencil, handcrafted down to each eraser’s tin fitting. And Mungo Thomson’s Between Projects is just the first piece in which exacting methods of fabrication transform otherwise mundane objects. That piece of cardboard lying against the wall? It’s actually a 2009 sculpture in bronze by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone. That bag of garbage on the floor? Jud Nelson carved it from white Carrara marble. Those 1,000 sunflower seeds filling a nearby jar, meanwhile, are actually made of porcelain, and each one was hand-painted by a laborer in China hired by the artist Ai Weiwei.

“The most compelling artworks move beyond questions of craft into more ominous territory,” said Kate Green in Artforum. Subway, a 2010 installation by Argentine artist Leandro Erlich, consists of a steel subway door whose window appears to look into the next car, where three commuters sit staring into space. “Since the window is actually a video on loop, we know the trio is trapped and has nowhere to go.” A 10-foot-tall 2010 self-portrait by Rudolf Stingel, painted to look like a well-worn black-and-white photograph, becomes “an elegy to youth and its brevity, as well as to the tradition of painting as a meaningful form of representation.” Virtually every piece in “Lifelike” appears highly familiar, and virtually all “make the familiar strange.”

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