Finding “Escher: The Exhibition & Experience” amid the repurposed buildings of Industry City is like making your way through one of the Dutch artist’s architectural paradoxes and impossibilities. Once you finally get to the right location, you’ll encounter a fun retrospective, albeit more Instagram friendly than art-historically thorough. The winding galleries feature many of the finest pieces by left-handed, mathematically inclined artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, better known as M. C. Escher, who was born in 1898 and died in 1972, leaving behind a legacy of influential and popular op-art drawings, woodcuts, etchings, watercolors, lithographs, and engravings. His singular genius birthed works that became a pop-culture phenomenon, appearing on T-shirts and album covers, in advertisements and unauthorized black-light posters. He concentrated on spatial deformations, repeated geometric imagery known as tessellations, and cross-hatching techniques to create mind-blowing works that uniquely altered perception — and were embraced by the hippie counterculture of the 1960s.
Curated by Mark Veldhuysen and Federico Giudiceandrea, the show comprises more than two hundred works, including such familiar classics as Hand with Reflecting Sphere (Self-Portrait in Spherical Mirror), Band of Union, Day and Night, Drawing Hands, and Relativity, the last one described in the catalog as “a clever perspective game based on three different vanishing points [that] allows you to bring together three completely different worlds.” Escher drew reptiles, birds, fish, insects, horses, human figures, and other creatures morphing into one another and emerging into and from physical objects. There are numerous dazzling works that most people won’t be as familiar with, such as Belvedere, Rind, Depth, and Eye. The exquisite, expansive Metamorphosis II journeys through geometric patterns, various living beings, a chess set, and Italian architecture before turning back on itself.
Among the Escher quotes on the walls are “We adore chaos because we love to produce order,” “He who wonders discovers that this in itself is wonder,” and “I don’t grow up. In me is the small child of my early days,” which is how his oeuvre makes even the oldest visitors feel. The show employs rather silly concessions to this era of social media with several installations that encourage people to photograph themselves either within an Escher work or an Escher-inspired environment. However, one of them, H. W. Lenstra’s reexamination of Escher’s Print Gallery, which involves the Droste effect, is utterly fascinating. The exhibition concludes with greeting cards, stamps, magazine covers, and other items designed by Escher, as well as articles about him and examples of his continuing influence. “His aim is to depict dreams, ideas, or problems in such a way that other people can observe and consider them,” Escher said of graphic artists. The show at Industry City might not be definitive, but it has plenty to observe and consider, and enjoy.
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