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February 21, 2013

Magic Realism: Exhibit showcases art mixed with fantasy, detail, focus

TERRE HAUTE — Ghosts, humans in bat costumes and anthropomorphized birds are among the images in the University Art Gallery’s exhibition “Lies that Tell the Truth: Magic Realism in Contemporary Art.”

On display from Friday through March 22, the exhibition includes works by nine internationally acclaimed contemporary artists — Kate Breakey, Susan Hauptman, Nicholas Kahn and Richard Selesnick, Peter Milton, Shana Moulton, Shana and Robert ParkeHarrison and Xiaoze Xie.

A series of lectures will be presented in conjunction with the exhibition. Xie, one of the featured artists, will speak about his work at an opening reception at 5:30 p.m. today.

On Tuesday, Joy O’Keefe, assistant professor in Indiana State’s department of biology, will present the lecture “Bats in Trouble: The Truth About Indiana’s Bats.” On March 5, Susan Griffin, editor of the Henry James Review, will speak about James’ magic realist story, “The Jolly Corner” (The exhibition includes Peter Milton’s interpretation of the story in his three-part etching series).

All lectures, followed by receptions, begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Landini Center for Performing and Fine Art’s Recital Hall across from the Gallery.

This multi-media exhibition of paintings, photographs, etchings, drawings and video explores magic realism, a mode in literature and the visual arts which developed after World War I. For many decades thereafter, numerous artists crafted a representational art, mixed with elements of fantasy, full of remarkable detail and sharp focus. Magic realism tricks observers by hiding unexpected or suggestive content in what at first might seem to be a common or ordinary scene.

By painting on top of her black and white photographs of birds and other animals, Breakey “gently skews reality a bit.” In these larger-than-life-size portraits she attempts to compensate for the animals’ tragic end by giving them an imaginary afterlife. In her photorealistic, yet mysterious, self-portraits, Hauptman toys with social conventions and gender identities. Forty photographs from Kahn and Selesnick’s Truppe Fledermaus series tell the story of a 1930s theater troupe that enacts carnivalesque performances for the animals.

Moulton’s abstract and dreamlike work is a layering of video, performance and prop staging. In her “Whispering Pines 8” video Moulton’s alter ego, Cynthia, relishes the life-changing potential of kitschy home décor.

Among the five photographs from Robert and Shana ParkeHarrisons’ recent Counterpoint series is “Mourning Cloak II” in which a group of brightly colored butterflies float down from above to land on the back of an Everyman seated in a bed in a cell-like room. According to the artists, their Counterpoint photographs “feature an ambiguous narrative that offers insight into the dilemma posed by science and technology’s failed promise to fix our problems, provide explanations, and furnish certainty pertaining to the human condition.”

In Xie’s large, hyperrealistic paintings of compressed newspaper stacks, one can find images of the spectacle of the day, the Chinese government’s propaganda campaigns, and suffering faces of victims. Also included in the exhibition are two photogravures and a painting from Xie’s Chinese library series.

The exhibition and lectures are free. The University Art Gallery is in the Richard G. Landini Center for Performing and Fine Arts, at North Seventh and Chestnut streets. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. For free group or school tours contact Jason Saavedra at 812-237-3720.

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