WHAT HAPPENS IN THE MIND when we perceive a work of art? Is it a literal representation or a false, artificial reality of something familiar? What techniques are artists employing to alter our perception? Is it all just smoke and mirrors?
Often striking and ambiguous, at times both alluring and strange, the complex sculptures in Smoke and Mirrors: Sculpture and the Imaginary explore the art of illusion at MOCA Jacksonville. Blurring the line between reality and fiction, the six national and international sculptors-Chul Hyun Ahn, James Clar, Patrick Jacobs, Ken Matsubara, Daniel Rozin, and Kathleen Vance-employ a variety of indiscernible techniques and mystifying illusionistic effects to accomplish levels of deception. As one peers into tunnels, portals, glasses, and suitcases, the outwardly literal representations are transformed into mindboggling artificial realities. Though often simple in material-mirrors, lights, videos, and even stuffed animals-our perception of the object and its construction are now in question.
Dedicated to presenting innovations in contemporary art, Smoke and Mirrors includes two new works by Rozin and Vance. MOCA Jacksonville is the first institution to exhibit Rozin's Penguins Mirror, an installation scattered on the floor and comprising 450 motorized stuffed animals. Playing with the compositional possibilities of black and white, each penguin turns from side to side and responds to the presence of viewers. As they perform, the penguins' collective intelligence is puzzling, yet somehow familiar, as the plush toys enact a precise choreography rooted in geometry.
MOCA Jacksonville invited Vance to evolve her series Rogue Stream by creating a new site-responsive installation based on the St. Johns River at the Museum. After studying the river's course, Vance recreates it in miniature-echoing every bend as water charts through the city and in the exhibition's replica. Created to celebrate the “Year of the River,” Vance constructs a living sculpture within the gallery that poses questions about our relationship to nature.
Organized in collaboration with guest curator Jenny Hager, associate professor of sculpture at UNF, the three-dimensional works and installations also restructure the traditional relationships between sculpture, viewer, and environment. Conveying the endless possibilities of illusion, the works in Smoke and Mirrors nonetheless border on mystical experience and logical explanation.