Friday, February 25, 2011

Impossible Realities

(Names have either been changed or characterized)

For the uninitiated, it just so happens that the particular area of the Midwest in which I dwell is an Arts powerhouse. Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, are all artistic centers. There are many important creative endeavors enshrined in those cities. I highly recommend that if anyone has the chance, to check out any one (or all) of these cities and do a little exploring of the local art scenes.

On Thursday the 24th, my intermediate printmaking class went on a group trip to the Akron Art Museum to check out an exhibition they have on display featuring M.C. Escher, titled Infinite Realities (up February 12th through May 29th 2011). Escher is perhaps one of the most recognized artists out there; right up there with Picasso and Van Gogh. While many believe his works to be very fine pencil drawings, they are actually (for the most part) incredibly detailed and refined Lithographs. He actually preferred to work with woodcuts and wood engravings, but his most recognized works are lithographs.

So the trip started out simple enough- my friend and I arrived roughly 20 minutes early, so we just chilled and chit-chatted. The class had agreed to meet at the museum around 2 in the afternoon. Eccentric Print Professor arrived around a quarter after. I knew this was going to be an odd venture when Awkward Kid (who had ridden with Eccentric Print Professor) meandered about the expansive lobby, and then disappeared. We all bought our admissions, but stood around for about 15 minutes or so waiting for him to turn up. Apparently, he was unaware that 1) You need to purchase admission. This is not a free museum and 2) You purchase said admission from the front desk that is labeled "Admissions and Information". Yup.

We made our ways upstairs to the exhibition and after no more than two minutes, I heard an elderly woman exclaim excited to her friend that "I saw Harry Potter over there!". What precisely that statement meant, will be something will be lost on me forever more. The exhibition space was very well organized and easy to follow through the timeline of Escher's life and works. Right off the bat in the first room, I found my favorite print of the whole show: Three Worlds. The title refers to the three elements or planes of the image that activate the picture plane. The first being the reflection of the trees on the water's surface. The second being the surface of the water itself, dotted with fallen leaves. The third being the underside of the surface, the area in which the koi exists. The image is beautifully constructed and executed. An absolute testament to Escher's skills as a printmaker.

Also on display were some of the few surviving drawings and sketches of Escher's. His drawings are the near antithesis of his prints: While his prints are meticulous and nary a line out of place, his sketches and drawings are loose and have a scribbling quality to them. I found myself fascinated that someone of notorious precision such as Escher, also produced such loose and lackadaisical ink drawings that were just as interesting as his prints. These sketches also lay out many of the issues Escher addressed in his prints. His interest in horizons, vanishing points, mathematics, and infinity are explored in his sketches prior to the formality of making a print.

One of the prints at the end of exhibition is a woodcut titled Snakes, the last print ever produced by M.C. Escher. When viewing the image, you should keep in mind with woodcuts and wood engravings, it is a relief printed image. This means that the raised parts of the image are what have ink on them and are printed. The lines that are cut away print white (on white paper), producing the negative spaces around the subject. Escher was 73 when he carved the block for Snakes. Even at that age, he held the physical acuity to carved the tiny, intricate lines necessary to produce his imagery.

What struck me, and I felt a fine closing for the show, was the plaque next to his final print, Snakes. On it, there was a quote from Escher, describing the emotions he felt while carving the block for image. At the end of quote, he made what I found to be a profound statement: "... I've been doing this kind of work for over 50 years now and nothing in this strange and frightening world seems more pleasant to me. What more could a person want?"

Seriously. Doing something you love for a lifetime. What more could a person want?

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