Sunday, August 24, 2014

M.C. Escher: Reality and Illusion

Currier Museum of Art
Manchester, N.H.
Sept. 20, 2014 through Jan. 5, 2015

M.C. Escher, Relativity, 1953, lithograph

© 2014 The M.C. Escher Company-The Netherlands.

All rights reserved. 

Escher and the White Rabbit

The Currier Museum's press release has it right. Prints of M.C. Escher's works adorned the walls of many a dorm room in the 1960s and 1970s. I had a calendar and a book of his prints. His popularity was concurrent with the interest in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and its hints of drug use and general "trippiness." Even a line from Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit seems written for Escher as well:

"...when logic and proportion fall down lazy dead..."

Well, maybe "lazy dead" is a bit much, but logic and proportion falling apart and revealing new dimensions and observations certainly fits. William Blake wrote that, in ancient times, we had more than five senses and perhaps that's what we saw, and see, in Escher's work.

Escher and Kafka

But, his work represented more than mind expansion to me. I saw his work as social commentary, particularly the architectural structures that led nowhere. It was the world of Kafka's The Trial; "K" constantly seeking the door, the minister, who would explain his arrest.

Escher, Bruegel the Elder and Dürer

The featureless figures in Escher's Relativity even bear a resemblance to some figures of hell in Bruegel's fantastical paintings. I seem to remember a woman with a head shawl that is open to reveal her face -- the sawed-off end of a log. Escher's figures are as remote from humanity, like automatons in a world that seems in order, but is empty of any compass. One last association, and I'll shut up. Escher's craftsmanship is impeccable, as precise as the lines of Dürer in his woodcuts.

 Exclusive New England Showing

 As for the exhibit, M.C. Escher: Reality and Illusion, it consists of more than 180 original prints and drawings from throughout his career. Show highlights include Metamorphosis (1939-40), Waterfall (1961) and Relativity (1953). There are a number of other events and workshops accompanying the exhibition -- an ARTalk on the "Psychology of Perception" by Foad Afshar, Psy.D, a professor at New Hampshire Institute of Art.

Your turn now: How do you perceive the works of Escher?