Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: The Art of Deception

Seeing is believing, so they say. But I’m betting “they” never saw The Art of Deception: Illusions to Challenge the Eye and the Mind  (Imagine).

More than a collection of optical illusions (though it surely is that), The Art of Deception features painting, photography and graphic design that’s made to make you look twice. Or three times. These are works that scream out to you: “Hold on a sec, all is not what it seems.”

Take Liu Bolin’s photograph of a small wooded area near Beijing. Looks innocent enough, until you notice the sly presence of a man standing right in front of you. Is he painted to blend in? Is he transparent? Or Ben Heine’s photograph of a drawing that offers a bird’s eye perspective of a nest of what could be skyscrapers. A young man is holding the drawing in such a way that he seems to be floating above them, looking down into them. Or how about Nikita Prokhorov’s tessellation art, in which figures are intertwined in what could be endless patterns? Or Oscar Reutersvard’s impossible figure designs?

 There’s really almost too much here to marvel at, and your eyes will widen to amazed orbs as you take it all in. From Punya Mishra’s ambigram of the word “good” with the word “evil” embedded inside it, to Guido Daniele’s paintings of animals on hands, The Art of Deception is a brilliant study of how artists from across the globe see and bend the world around them. It’s not so much a game, though it can be, as it is an interpretation of the world as they see it. Their juxtapositions surprise, then illuminate, and finally provide “a-ha!” moments that leave you smiling.

This wonderful book features a foreword by John Langdon, king of the ambigram, and bite-sized essays about each work of art. They don’t give the secret of the work away, but each one offers a glimpse into the mind of the artist and a peek at what he or she is trying to accomplish within each piece. ◊

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