Double Takes

Double Takes

Our brains are efficient machines, constantly taking in, processing and categorizing information. Most of the time, things run smoothly. But every once in a while we encounter something that stops up the process. And sometimes this is a great joy.

Imaginary Architecture: Photographs by Filip Dujardin is one of these occasions. The latest exhibition at the Chazen Museum of Art features fifteen large-scale digital images created by the Belgian photographer.

The works, on display through May 16, are part of Dujardin’s ongoing Fictions series, in which he combines elements of photographs he’s taken of real buildings to form new, imaginative architecture.

Dujardin’s buildings blend the line between real and imaginary. Crisp, linear and extremely lifelike, they’re imposing structures of metal, concrete, brick and glass. Yet some are shockingly structurally impossible, while others defy the eye more subtly in the way elements are arranged.

The buildings often look neglected and only a handful include a human’s presence, a bleakness reinforced by the gray-blue sky in each photograph, begging the question: what’s their story? What was this place? What happened to it? Who lives here now? But even without answers, it’s interesting to examine and dissect the images.

Another reason to visit the Chazen is to check out a new—and controversial—work of art. Up on the third floor is A Rush of Blood to the Head, a stoneware sculpture by Beth Cavener Stichter.

The tall sculpture depicts two aroused male goats standing on their hind legs and kissing. WISC-TV broke the story on how the work was stirring up mixed reactions, and ever since people have been weighing in on whether the sculpture is obscene, pornographic, offensive, veritable art—or some combination of these terms.

I took a look at the sculpture a few weeks back, but I wasn’t shocked—at least not by the part that was meant to be so. I was struck by the tenderness of the goats’ embrace, and the juxtaposition between that and that bottom half of the work. Also pleasantly surprising was the realization that this thought-provoking work was made from stoneware, a material long used in traditional applications.

According to Claire Oliver, a New York gallery that carries Cavener Stichter’s work, the Washington artist uses animals to explore dark and uncomfortable aspects of the human condition, from insecurity to abuse to self-loathing.

“The artist hopes that by inducing the viewer to acknowledge his own uncomfortable darker side, she can inspire a greater understanding of those disparities that divide contemporary society,” states the gallery.

Watch’s slideshow of the work here. Or visit the Chazen to see the sculpture for yourself—and decide what you think about it.

Photos courtesy of the Chazen Museum of Art.