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Best of Fall 2012: Evan Penny’s mind-bending body sculptures at the AGO

Best of Fall 2012: Evan Penny

In his industrial warehouse studio near Dupont and Dufferin, Evan Penny uses silicone, paint, aluminum frames and real hair to create human figures that put Madame Tussaud’s to shame. His painstaking attention to detail—he has an assistant whose entire job is to affix individual hairs using tweezers—landed him special effects work in the late 1990s on films like X-Men II and Oliver Stone’s Nixon. It was while crafting superhero mutants and iconic presidential noses that he became obsessed with the idea of going beyond realism to explore how our perceptions of the human form have been shaped and distorted by modern technology. Evan Penny Re Figured, a massive new exhibition that comes to the AGO after touring across Europe, captures the decade since that spark of inspiration. The figures are comically exaggerated, stretched, squished, aged, drained of colour, made monstrous. The dramatically foreshortened limbs of a 10-foot-tall nude male figure appear to recede into space, while other parts of the sculpture are as flat as a playing card. When the show was in Salzburg, a Wired magazine review advised queasy audiences to “just take a moment and look away.” The creep-out factor alone is enough to make Penny’s arresting figures unmissable; their brilliance and daring make them unforgettable.

Sept. 20 to Jan. 6
Art Gallery of Ontario,

(Image: Mark Peckmezian)