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"Optical Delusions: Jokes, Puns, and Sleights-of-Hand in Photography
2000-06-17 until 2000-10-15
Art Institute of Chicago
Photography is often thought of as a sober-minded and objective medium, one that clariNULLes
the facts. The photographers in this exhibition, however, aim to confuse. Several of them
mix up photography and painting in perverse ways. Teun Hocks, Calum Colvin, and Vera
Lehndorff and Holger Trülzsch paint or construct scenes that they then photograph. The
results emphasize the paradox created when a three-dimensional reality is represented by a
two-dimensional medium. Similar tricks are played on the eye by the odd constructions of
Zeke Berman and the manipulated reality of Robert Cumming.
The photographers featured in this exhibition share a desire to both amuse and confuse the
viewer. The sense of humor involved can range from the whimsical and frivolous to the dry
and poker-faced. Sometimes the photographs work like cartoons or comic strips.
Photographs by Hocks and William Wegman, the baby pictures of Sue Packer and
Deborah Hunter, the street photographs of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helen Levitt, and Elliott
Erwitt, and the parodies of other people's photographs done by Jay Boersma and Gary
Brotmeyer all function in this way.
The fun that these photographers are having can be irrepressibly juvenile-as when Vik Muniz plays with his food in Medusa
Marinara-or comically existential, like the strange manipulations of Michal Macku. The Romantic poet John Keats said of the
Grecian urn that it doth tease us out of thought; so do the photographs seen here.
Medusa Marinara (detail), 1999