Truth or Dare: A Reality Show
I recently had the pleasure of attending the exhibition Truth or Dare: A Reality Show, located at the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. It explores the crossroads of the real and the imaginary in many different and interesting ways, while still ultimately staying cohesive to the theme and inspiring deep thought over the ideas and realities that the pieces explore. It features many contemporary mixed media works by a menagerie of diverse artists, and there were many pieces there that I enjoyed.
As a whole, Truth or Dare: A Reality Show attempts to explore the idea of mixing reality and illusion, or blurring the lines between the two enough to make the viewers contemplate it. It is an attempt to capture the uncanny, to give physical form to ideas and concepts that can be difficult to express in words and images. Many of the pieces provoke internal confrontation between what is real and what is illusion, and attempts to explore the points where knowledge of reality and the yearning of fantasy intersect. For example, the work “Streetmeeting” by the American artist Andrew Sendor is a painting based off real vintage photographs that Sendor acquired, and utilizes oil paint on plexiglass. He intricately painted figures within the photographs as realistically as possible, but creates a colorfully estranged but vivid background for the figures to exist in. Through this depiction, Sendor attempts to capture the idea of how reality changes within our minds by creating strange and somewhat nebulous places that do not exist in reality, while still keeping realistic elements, such as the people, in his pieces. The clashing styles of vintage realism with modern surrealism also contributes to this idea within the piece.
Another piece that captures this idea well is “A Glass of Fruit” by the artist Alejandro Almanza Pereda. In this video installation, Pereda uses the common motif of fruit and glasses, but uses perspective and illusion to create a sense of wonder and intrigue as the fruit and glasses move in ways that seem to defy the laws of physics. This use of real and ordinary objects in a way that seems supernatural creates that dissonance in the minds of viewers that makes them not only question the piece, but also marvel at the intricacies of this warped version of reality. Watching how the objects move is enticing because as a viewer, one would believe the objects should act a certain way based on our knowledge of reality, and when they do not, we become entranced as our minds try to understand what they are perceiving.
However, my favorite piece was “Die Liebe” by Dutch artist Sebastiaan Bremer. It is a 2-D piece, and is rather small compared to other pieces in the exhibition. The piece itself stands alone, and combined with its relatively small size, it a work that is easy to overlook within the large exhibition. There were not official measurements, but it is a square piece that seemed about 18 inches in length and width. It is a mixed media piece, consisting of a printed personal photograph of the artist, Bremer, when he was seventeen years old. The picture has been enlarged, and has been further enhanced with stippled and swirling ink embellishments that give it a somewhat surreal, almost dream-like nature. This is one of numerous pieces Bremer has created using very intricate and delicate dots and swirls that are so meticulously placed, the piece almost feels like it was created utilizing digital media. In “Die Liebe”, Bremer also retroactively explores the ideas of the beauty of his youth from his current perspective as an adult. It has a deeply emotional feel to it, exploring the ideas of memory and the inherent gaps that exist within it, as well as the almost ethereal imaginings of fleeting moments in the past. The use of a pre-existing image with ink layered on top of it to explore the ideas of time, memory, and processing is very thought-provoking, and gives the piece a multi-dimensional feel that allows the viewer to interpret the pieces within the contexts of their own experiences. It is a very beautiful and intricately stylized work, and I am personally very captivated by it.
The exhibition Truth or Dare: A Reality Show is very successful, as nearly every piece caused me to stop and think as I tried to parse between what was real, what was illusion, and if there really was a difference in the context of each piece. This blending of reality and illusion is an extremely cool and interesting concept to me, and to see so many artists approaching this idea in so many different ways is awe inspiring.
Written by Cameron Squire