Choose Your Illusion
Optical effects make for terrifically trippy art
Life / 7 Feb 2013
It’s been two decades since Magic Eye made optical illusions a national pastime. Since then, the bar for what qualifies as a worthwhile visual effect has been raised considerably. But lo-fi ocular trickery now appears to be making a comeback, as artists render immersive works with a mesmerizing quality and, in turn, bend viewers’ brains.
Specular Holography: Research scientist Matt Brand’s specular holographs create the illusion of three dimensions and movement through a neat trick of light reflection. Relying on an effect that he calls “zintaglio,” Brand engraves pinpoints into flat metal to create patterns which, when hit by light, essentially trick the eye into perceiving a rotating 3D image. The new Museum of Math in NYC has installed 45 of Brand’s works under an array of overhead lamps, allowing visitors to direct light toward specific holographs to “activate” their illusive quality. The holographs’ hypnotic visual effect hints at the burgeoning connection between mathematics and the visual arts.
Supermajor: Artist Matt Kenyon’s Supermajor makes a captivating statement about big oil through an unfathomable visual illusion. The installation, which was until recently on display at the Katzen Museum in D.C., features a wire rack of motor oil cans, one of which is punctured. Though the motor oil should be spilling out of the fissure, the liquid appears to be moving upwards into the can—in self-contained droplets, in slow motion. The bizarre illusion is achieved using real motor oil and without any digital effects, and was created to reference the recent reappearance of oil sheen at the site of BP’s massive 2010 spill.
Binge Thinking Collection: At first glance, Jonty Hurwitz’s Binge Thinking Collection sculpture series appears wholly abstract. But approached from a certain angle, each work reveals an image of a unique, concrete object. Metal pieces are paired with cylindrical mirrors, which reflect the exaggerated shape of partner sculptures to uncover hidden inspiration such as a hand, face, or frog. Sculpting the works to play so precisely off of the mirror’s inherent distortion is, according to Hurwitz, “both an engineering and an artistic challenge.” Hurwitz has used this technique to explore such diverse concepts as the cult of youthfulness, the credit crunch, and the concept of self.
©The Intelligence Group