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By Tad Simons
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By: | Posted: 02/27/2012
[caption id="attachment_482" align="aligncenter" width="517" caption="Jared begins to wonder: Has corporate downsizing gone too far?"][/caption]
One of my favorite TV shows when I was a kid was Land of the Giants, a sci-fi series about the crew of a spaceship that crash-lands on an Earth-like planet where everything is 12 times bigger than they are. As shrunken-people stories go, it was much more satisfying than The Borrowers or Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, in part because the set was full of giant telephones, ashtrays, and other household bric-a-brac, and members of the stranded crew were always in danger of being stomped on by people 70 feet tall.
[caption id="attachment_483" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="An eraser for very large mistakes"][/caption]
Little did I know that in the not-too-distant future, super-sized household appliances would become much more than simple stage props—they would become . . . art! Or that in a futuristic wonderland called the Walker Art Center, inflated office supplies and grooming tools would, in the equally gaseous words of its promoters, "transform the ordinary into something beguiling, loaded with narrative and metaphor, and imbued with an arresting sense of humanity."
Lifelike, the Walker's brilliant and perplexing new exhibit, will make you think like that—but don't let it stop you from going. It's fun to look at a comb six feet tall and ponder the size of that guy's hair dryer, or stand underneath a card table ten feet high and feel, for a fleeting moment, like a schnauzer waiting for table scraps.
This idea of "re-contextualizing" everyday stuff as objets d'art got started with the Duchamp-Johns-Warhol school of soup cans and sight gags, but has since been honed into a fine art by all sorts of artists for whom irony, deception, trickery, and subterfuge are the extra brushes in their palette. Fittingly, the exhibit opens with Jasper Johns' wall toast and Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes, but things immediately get more interesting. In the first section, called Common Objects, sits a giant lunch bag created by Alex Hay.
It's made of painted fiberglass, but looks exactly like a paper bag—nay, a beguilingpaper
[caption id="attachment_506" align="alignright" width="235" caption="Lunch for the whole office!"][/caption]
bag—which of course prompts the viewer to contemplate various concepts of lunch, lunch-ness, lunch-ification, or lunch-iosity. It's an impressive piece, because it's very difficult to make a realistic-looking paper bag out of non-paper-bag materials, just as it is difficult to make a block of marble look like a Hefty trash bag, or a chunk of bronze look like a box of Kleenex. Yet you will find all of these objects and more in Lifelike, and when you encounter them in the context of a contemporary art museum, you will doubtless be reminded—lest you have forgotten—that the world is full of garbage and things to cry about.
Tad Simons is a contributing editor for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine's arts and entertainmenet section. See bio
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