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João Penalva, Petit Verre (Small Glass), 2007, shadow theater, wood, fabric, and PVC (music commissioned from Zhuomin Chan), 63 x 24 1/4 x 24 3/4".

João Penalva Galerie

Galerie Thomas Schulte

João Penalva, Petit Verre (Small Glass), 2007, shadow theater, wood, fabric, and PVC (music commissioned from Zhuomin Chan), 63 x 24 1/4 x 24 3/4".

“The back of magic” is what writer Diana Evans calls that area of the theater behind the stage where, as she says, the black hat and the rabbit are stored. In the visual arts, it’s much the same. To peer behind the scenes of a presentation, addressing the techniques or ideology of the display itself, can have a disenchanting effect—can produce unveilings and enlightenment, exposing the tricks by which works of art present themselves and the mechanisms behind their stories. This show by João Penalva was devoted to uncovering this realm, yet hardly appeared intended to do any disenchanting at all. On the contrary: We found ourselves in the midst of a collection of fantastical items that have a quite bewildering effect. The series of “Display Stands,” 2010–11, for example, combines photographs of, yes, display stands with narratives written by Penalva himself. The empty stands

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