2000 to 2005
It was between the years 1998 and 2000, with the development of the L. Faux project, that my current orientation established itself. The point of genesis for that project stems from a visit to Barcelona in 1998, where I saw an exhibition, Artificial: Figuracions Contemporanies at the Museu d’Art Contemporani. The theme of the exhibition dealt with the implicit artifice inherent in any representation of the “real”. I was drawn in particular to a grouping of two artist’s work.
On one wall hung the large photographic portraits by Thomas Ruff and on a facing wall, large sculptural masks by Stefan Hablutzel. Looking at the Thomas Ruff photographs, I was drawn into the plausibility of the individuals depicted full of implied life and history. Upon turning towards the sculptural pieces, the photographs became suddenly flat and unbelievable when faced with the physical plausibility of the three-dimensional. However, upon approaching the sculptures, they in turn became implausible. Too object-like, too big for themselves, quite unlike engaging with a real individual. At that point, the photographs and the flatness of their mediated space became believable again. I realized at that moment that this is what I’m interested in: the space in between.
This became a grounding principal in the work which continues to present day. One of the ways I describe my work is to say “I try to situate my sculpture somewhere between the way we perceive each other in real time and space and the way we perceive ourselves and each other in an image.”
The L. Faux project, also called the Libby project, is named for its subject and model Libby Faux (pronounced “Fox”).
The format the L. Faux project re-enacts my encounter with the Ruff and Hablutzel works in Barcelona. The scale of the work is similar to both. It echoes the mask like quality of the Hablutzel’s and the photographic cropped “head shot” of the Ruffs. The L. Faux pieces are both image and object. Three dimensional but frontal and relatively flat, sculpted in a progressive spatial compression. This also becomes a common format for subsequent work. References to the photographic play out in each variation, evoking both colour and black and white formats. A white version implies a lack of pigment or faded image.
Motivation for this and subsequent work stems from a recognition: that encounters with distorted or manipulated images of ourselves in film and print media are “normalized” into our daily routine—yet in real life we are very intolerant of any distortion to our physical being.
I ask, “What would happen if I take a distortion of the human body that is ‘normalized’ in an image context, that we might assume belongs exclusively to the image world, and bring that into the space we physically occupy?” The L. Faux CMYK piece refers to the misregistration associated with print media, for example. It is very destabilizing and difficult to reconcile as an object.
Accompanying “same scale” photographs were produced of the colour, black-and-white, white, and Tri-X sculpture variations.
Evan Penny, 2011