New York

Liliana Porter

Hundred Acres

The work of three artists exhibited recently seems involved with the relationship between reality and illusion in an explicitly physical sense. Liliana Porter’s paintings and prints, seen at Hundred Acres, center on the combination and confusion of real elements with their images. Actual screw eyes, nails, string, holes, and shadows are used beside their photo-silkscreen images. For example, a large white canvas is slit across the top front edge so the canvas corners curl forward, revealing the wooden stretcher. Toward the center, the canvas is reattached to the stretcher by two nails, complete with shadows, which aren’t real. Another canvas has a piece of heavy twine stitched across its center and knotted; only the final knot is real. Most of the pieces are variations on this idea. Others involve larger objects—a ceramic cup and its real and painted shadows—or no objects at all, slits and holes in the canvas which are part real and part not.

In her smaller “Projects” exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, Porter’s work looked more interesting because all five pieces were executed directly on the wall. This eliminates the tendency to see the work as some kind of corny solution to “the flatness of the picture plane” or the Cubist nail reductio ad absurdum. The most interesting piece in this exhibition consists of four unreal nails and shadows photo-silkscreened on the wall, each connected by a piece of real string to a real nail in the floor. It’s the only piece in either show which does anything besides juxtapose real and unreal objects. In fact, the main point does not seem to be that the nails on the wall are real or not, but merely that their appearance on the wall and their attachment to the floor does some crazy, illusionistic thing: The whole wall begins to tilt back toward the horizontal. With the exception of this piece, there is ultimately not much to look at or think about in this work. It’s the unpretentious elaboration of one kind of visual pun, an idea which Porter seems to have cleverly and consistently exhausted.

––Roberta Pancoast Smith