Thanks to Chris Perez for this piece. Chris is Creative Director of , a branding and marketing design firm based in Austin, TX.
It’s 3 o’clock on a Wednesday, and I’m somewhere between gathering my thoughts and savoring an ASMR-like reaction my mind is having from what I just saw.
The best art exhibit I’ve ever seen.
Or more formally, the exhibit housed inside the NGV in Melbourne, Australia – a world class city I’ve already become enamored with in my few days here.
The exhibit is a retrospective on M.C. Escher – the Dutch artist popularized by his paradoxical drawings (many of which are actually lithographs – meaning they were drawn on limestone with a wax pencil, and then etched with an acid for printing). Navigating through the various works showcased, you’ll see that Escher possessed a mind-boggling mastery of various printmaking techniques (wood cuts, mezzotints, and lithographs).
If you love Escher, or if you love art for that matter, the exhibit as a whole is emotion inducing. Looking around the room I saw patrons with a frozen look of wonder, curiosity, and delight. For me, the feelings that wrapped around my mind (like the tessellations in his work) had me both laughing at the absurdity of talent on display and holding my jaw in befuddlement of how human hands created these works.
The exhibit is like walking into a documentary and for brief moments you feel like you are inside Escher’s head – following his explorations in early childhood, to his development years, to an egotistical (his own words) mastery of his craft. You catch Escher, through his observations and self-imposed challenges, simply showing off.
The display of this comprehensive collection by itself would be profound, but the collaboration with nendo – a Japanese design studio founded by Oki Sato – make this curation worth booking a trip to Australia for.
Just as Escher loved to create works of trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”), nendo manipulates the iconic form of a house to showcase these iconic pieces in enigmatic ways.
In one room, metal rods that contort themselves around the frames of artwork, create the outline of a house when viewed from a certain perspective.
In another, a maze of black and white home structures provide an artful canopy to Escher’s explorations in tessellations.
Carrying the motif further, a corridor of alternating black and white house forms lead to a rotunda that showcases some of Escher’s most well-known pieces. These icons of work (Waterfall, Relativity, Ascending and Descending) appropriately stand adjacent to a circular array of house icons cut from thin sheets of metal – sculpturally representing the geometric etchings that were a part of his process.
Finally, a serpentine pathway leads you to his final work and masterpiece Snakes. Which the exhibit quotes as the embodiment of “fifty years of printmaking… a masterpiece of technical brilliance and a sophisticated expression of order and logic.”
The dual expression of art and architecture is what makes this exhibit such an achievement – a mandatory pilgrimage for Escher fans, or those in need of inspiration. While the backdrop of Melbourne – with its street art, diversity, and multicultural food – will make certain to cultivate that inspiration into a trek of a lifetime.
The Escher X nendo exhibit runs from December 2, 2018 – April 7, 2019 at The National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.