SchoolArts Magazine

September 2018

SchoolArts is a national art education magazine committed to promoting excellence, advocacy, and professional support for educators in the visual arts since 1901.

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L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G Caption SCHOOLARTSMAGAZINE.COM 25 Art and Illusion B E R N A R D P R A S A N A M O R P H I C I N S TA L L AT I O N A R T I S T L O O K I N G & L E A R N I N G Baroque, Romantic, and Impressionist art. He also pro- duces portraits of celebrities and political figures. Pr as was born in southwest France and spent much of his time as a child in a toy store. He studied fine art in Toulouse and spent twenty years as a painter before tran - sitioning to sculpture. In 1997, he combined photography w ith installation art and began his anamorphic work. Art and Illusion Deception of the viewer's eye has a long history in West- ern art. Ancient Roman artists used paint and mosaics t o create illusionary rooms or gardens. Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1526/1527–1593) painted "portraits" that were composed of objects such as fruits, vegetables, and flora. The Ambassadors, a painting by Holbein (1497–1543), features an anamorphic skull. In the nineteenth century, American artists painted trompe l'oeil still lifes. In the early 1900s, Dada and Surreal- ist artists devised collages and assemblages of found objects to trick viewers. Salvador Dalí (1904–1989) envisioned a collaged portrait of actress Mae West as a "Surrealist Inte- rior." It was later recreated as an anamorphic room (illusion. In the 1960s and 70s, Op Art painters such as Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely created designs that trick the eye into sensing movement or rhythm. B ernard Pras brings a new level of complexity to anamorphic art (art that can only be properly appreciated from a specific viewpoint). At first glance, his pieces appear to be clever recreations of famous artworks or portraits created from everyday objects. In reality, they are room-sized installations that have been photographed from a specific spot. From a different angle, they look like unusual arrangements of stacked objects. Pras uses a technique similar to popular chalk artist Julian Beever, but with sculpture as the medium. You may have also seen Renaissance or Baroque paintings, executed on accordion-folded sup - ports, that provide portraits of two people, each only vis- ible from an opposite viewpoint. Anamorphic Arrangements Pras collects plastic waste, boxes, musical instruments, household objects, and discarded clothing. He arranges them according to color, shape, and texture to match the image he wants to recreate. He slowly assembles the objects while observing the positioning through the cam - era. What emerges are incredibly complex arrangements t hat have been manipulated to defy perspective and space to appear like flat images. In the end, the photograph is the only record of these temporary setups. Pras has been inspired by masterpieces of Western art, including Left: Bernard Pras, Guernica (guache). Right: Bernard Pras, Guernica (cote). © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris.

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