Adriana Lara’s The Non-object (frog), 2016, a painted silicone sculpture of a frog lying flat on its back, rests on a pedestal near the entrance to SculptureCenter. Except for the words “Playa del Carmen” scrawled on its side, it looks perfectly natural. Lara seems to be rendering the phrase “nature morte,” or still life, literal. But then, once you stare at the sculpture long enough, a motor in the chest of the colorful, rubbery creature makes it look as though it were breathing. You could almost be tricked into thinking it’s alive.
“The Eccentrics” lives up to its name. It’s a wacky, thrilling exhibition that is, in a way, about false art that seems real. As its curator, Ruba Katrib, explains, “The Eccentrics” is loosely based on circus acts and the way we’re willing, at least temporarily, to be duped, despite knowing that the tricks are staged.
Tori Wrånes’s Double Vision (2015), a pair of wooden rings that swing down from the ceiling as though activated by an invisible performer, is the only bit of a circus element to make an appearance here. Everything else seems to be a metaphor for Katrib’s thesis. A case in point: Georgia Sagri’s sculpture STAGED (2016), a marquee hung high above viewers, explains Plato’s allegory of the cave.
Throughout the show, Sagri and several others create illusions through photographic images. Jeanine Oleson uses 3-D video to make filmed images of sculptures-in-progress seem present, and Zhou Tao accomplishes something similar in his video Blue and Red (2014), in which a park is bathed in Day-Glo color by electronic billboards nearby. In all of these works, real life is absorbed by artifice by way of moving-image technology.
The best work in the show is Sanya Kantarovsky’s Happy Soul (2015), a video installation in which digital animations are projected onto a painting of a smiling nude man covering his crotch with his hands. Computer-generated, flipped-over canvases rain down on the painting to the accompaniment of increasingly foreboding loud pop music. After a short while, the nude man, now animated, appears and seems to swipe away the painting. The installation feels ultra-contemporary; it’s about how the digital—a three-ring circus featuring magic of all kinds—can make the analog seem less real. When that happens, nothing is safe.