By James Foritano
Manchester, NH – Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898 -1972), or simply M. C. Escher, resides at the Currier Museum in Manchester New Hampshire through January 5 in a comprehensive exhibit titled “M. C. Escher: Reality and Illusion.”
I’ll expose my bias right away by admitting that I was captivated by the reality. The illusion, in my bias, can be seen anywhere and everywhere, since it reproduces so well.
Who wouldn’t be a-goggle at the staircases of “Relativity” running upside down and downside up, yet with anonymous figures clinging to both with the assurance of their own personal gravity field. Water runs uphill in “Waterfall.” Who wouldn’t stop and applaud such ingenuity?
I, also, stop and admire the artistry and imagination of not only conceiving but also meticulously crafting these woodcuts, lithographs and mezzotints by a master of all those difficult techniques.
And yet, I was most captivated by the early Escher. Escher loved to travel in Italy. He said it woke him up to his talent. He could stand in front of a tree, as he did in “Old Olive Tree” and contemplate its twisty trunk and leaves and setting in land and sky until every surface became an experience, for him and for us.
Escher also felt and notated the shimmering surfaces on, behind and about masterpieces of architecture as well as nature. In the “Cathedral of Tournai,” every perspective has its own draw, from curling tiles on the surrounding roofs of the village to the soaring steeples of a monument to three different eras of style: Romanesque, Gothic and French Baroque.
San Gimignano is a spectacularly walled and towered medieval town in Tuscany. Escher concentrates on one narrow stairway spiraling down between the crowding walls of attached houses. Again, every surface is notated with different marks; no shadow or light goes un-remarked. And so we visit this place both now and in memory, since no one glance could yield the full measure of attention every shading and direction receives.
Ditto with the famous cathedral and abbey of Monreale in Sicily. I have a dim memory of seeing it from a neighboring hilltop looking down and also of walking under its shadowed arcades looking out on a green courtyard and sparkling Moorish fountain. The Normans, the Arabs and the Sicilians left their mark on this abbey/church complex. And bold, exquisite markings they were; yet, being led by the fine artistic hand of M. C. Escher is another revelation those anonymous builders would applaud.
(“M. C. Escher: Reality and Illusion” continues through January 5, 2015 at the Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash Street, Manchester New Hampshire. For more information, call (603) 669-6144 – and please tell them artscope sent you.)