ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
The real face of Penny’s Unreal
Artist: Evan Penny
Exhibit: Absolutely Unreal
Gallery: Museum London
By Michael Yokota
Evan Penny’s realist sculpture combined with works in photography and
other mixed media are currently on display at Museum London.
His exhibit, Absolutely Unreal, is on display until Sunday, Mar. 14. Although
the show is a comprehensive sample of his career’s work, the focus is
on the two most recent projects: the “L. Faux” and “No One-In
The works in “L. Faux” confront the viewer immediately upon entry
into the Museum’s Ivey North and Ivey Central halls. The series is based
on three life-like sculptures of an anonymous woman’s head.
“L. Faux’s” unflinching gaze seems to pierce right through
those that look at her; the ambiguous stare can be discomforting and confrontational
due to the sheer size of the bust — approximately four feet high.
The detail Penny puts into the contours and texture of the skin, exaggerated
by the scope of each head, serves as a reminder of the blemishes and flaws
in ourselves and those around us.
The “L. Faux” sculptures are physically identical pieces, but
the colour tone of each piece varies from a life-like hue, to grey-scale to
an all-white head. Although Penny maintains that he is a formalist, the grouping
of these works implies something else. It may be a comment on the movement
from health to sickness or perhaps the decline of life into death; either way,
the pieces have the greatest effect when viewed in series.
The second half of “L. Faux” are scaled pictures of each bust.
Penny forces us to consider the distance between the model on which the sculpture
is based, the work itself and the visual representation of the sculptures.
Perhaps it is a question of the impersonality of photography or perhaps he
intends to blur those distinctions. Either way, these themes play a role in
the other portion of Absolutely Unreal, “No One-In Particular.”
“No One-In Particular” is less striking, albeit just as interesting.
The works are multiple low-relief busts scaled to about 1.5 times the size
of the average human head. The faces are blankly frozen and their stare is
less intense than “L. Faux”, but the realism is just as accurate,
right up to the clothes that each work wears. The expression of each bust closely
resembles a photo ID picture or a television freeze frame.
Gazing at the busts incites a feeling of voyeurism at a moment of personal
intimacy. This feeling is heightened by the candid depiction of the subject’s
clothes, skin and facial expression; the flaws are rendered perfectly.
A series of photographs of similar works lines the West wall of the gallery
with the same distancing and impersonal effects as the “L. Faux” photographs.
In both series, Penny’s sculptures can be seen as the progressive face
of realist sculpture or as an ironic homage to the perfectionism of traditional
sculpture. Either way, his reflections on representing the real are worth the
visit to Museum London.
Absolutely Unreal runs until Sunday, Mar. 14 at Museum London. 421 Ridout