Evan Penny learned some of his imaging techniques in the 1990s, creating special effects for films like Natural Born Killers, JFK, and Nixon. A survey of Penny’s work is on display at the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, Austria, through February 19.
With meticulous attention to detail and utmost technical precision, Evan Penny‘s sculptures portray human bodies in their true colours, with all their physiognomical features and individual characteristics. His figures, executed with exceptional craftsmanship from layers of silicone and pigments, are hyperrealistic, unsparing portrayals of man which have a commanding presence and exude sensuality despite or maybe because of their pitilessness. And yet the artificiality of the sculptures is obvious. The use of alienation effects such as compression, stretching, twists, distortions or colour errors makes the works reminiscent of photography, TV or digital image processing. In this way he creates anamorphic sculptures that grow out of two-dimensionality, three-dimensional portraits which come across as faulty four-colour prints or distorted sculptures reaching into the fourth dimension of time.
When asked to describe his current working phase, which is for the first time appreciated on such a large scale in the exhibition Evan Penny. Re Figured, in one sentence, the Canadian artist, who was born in South Africa in 1953, replied: “I try to situate my sculptures somewhere between two different ways of perceiving ourselves: perception in real time and space and perception in media images“. In these intermediate worlds he creates hybrid beings who overwhelm the viewer by virtue of the photographic precision of their surfaces and their physical penetration of our living space. They confront us with the deformations of the image of man in our media age. Every sculpture represents a materialized mental experiment that the artist himself describes as follows: “What would happen if I take a distortion of the human body that is “normalized“ in an image context and that we might assume belongs exclusively to the image world, and bring that into the space we physically occupy?“ His works supply us with the answer: a strong emotional reaction full of abysmal horror and insatiable fascination.
This exhibition, which has been organized in cooperation with Kunsthalle Tübingen, is the largest presentation of Penny‘s oeuvre in a museum setting and his first solo exhibition in Europe. It includes approx. 40 works from 22 lenders from Germany, Switzerland, Italy, the UK, Canada and the U.S.. After the presentations in Tübingen and Salzburg, the exhibition will move on to the Museo delle Arti Catanzaro, Italy, and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Penny‘s hometown Toronto.
A catalogue with texts by Alberto Fiz, David Moos, Daniel J. Schreiber and Veit Ziegelmaier is published. Editor: Daniel J. Schreiber
Published by Book Shop Walter König, Cologne 2011
178 pages, numerous coloured illustrations, hardback, German/English/Italian edition, € 28,00
Evan Penny at Sperone Westwater, NYC (March 2011)