Sperone Westwater presents an exhibition of new sculpture by Evan Penny. For this exhibition of five new works, Penny continues to create altered renderings of the human figure made of silicone, pigment, hair, fabric and aluminum. Penny pushes the limits of figural representation through distortions of stretching, skewing, exaggerated scale and the effect of time on self-perception. These new works further blur the boundaries between the real and the unreal, truth and imagination, and photography and sculpture. This is the artist’s third solo show at the gallery.
In the first floor gallery, Penny presents his biggest sculpture to date, Jim Revisited (2011), who stands 10 feet high -- so tall that when seen from the gallery’s second mezzanine floor, the viewer encounters the top of Jim’s head. Even in a room with a double-height wall, Jim’s pose and exaggerated height conveys a powerful presence. As the model for this new sculpture Penny revisited his 1985 piece, Jim, a diminutive 4/5 life-size sculpture positioned in a contrapposto stance. In Jim Revisited, Penny used digital scanning technology to dramatically resize and manipulate the stance. He then reworked the surface in clay to add greater detail. The progression of Jim from 1985 to 2011, exemplifies the development of Penny’s sculpture over the last 26 years, in addition to reflecting the advancement of technology, photography, and the representation of the body in a digital imaging age.
On the gallery’s second floor Penny juxtaposes a bust of himself as an old man, Old Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Will (Not) Be, Variation #2 (2011) with a bust of himself as a young man, Young Self: Portrait of the Artist as He Was (Not), Variation #1 (2011). The highly detailed wrinkles, beard, and greying hair of Penny’s Old Self, and the slightly blemished skin, boyish blond hair, and youthful gaze of Penny’s Young Self evoke an incredible degree of tactility and realism. The opposing placement of these two sculptures reveals Penny’s self-reflection through a continuum of time, and alludes to the subjective nature of memory and desire, and how photographic images inform and distort perception and representations of the Self. In speaking about these works, Penny says:
I try to situate my sculpture somewhere between the way we perceive ourselves and each other in real time and space and the way we perceive ourselves and each other in an image. These two pieces highlight the additional and confounding feature of imagining, or projecting through time.
Born in South Africa in 1953, Evan Penny currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada. Since his first solo exhibition in 1981, Penny’s work has been exhibited throughout Canada and abroad. A major survey of the artist’s work, Absolutely Unreal traveled to the Museum London in London, Ontario, the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta (2004-2005). More recently, Evan Penny, a survey organized by the Columbus Museum of Art, in Ohio, traveled to the Flint Institute of Arts in Michigan (2007). Penny’s work is included in numerous public collections including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Flint Institute of Arts, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Scheringa Museum of Realist Art, and Sammlung Essl in Vienna.
In June 2011, Kunsthalle Tuebingen will debut the first European survey of Evan Penny’s work which will travel to the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg and the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The retrospective, entitled Evan Penny: Rendering Realities is a survey of 30 sculptures from the past 10 years and will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by Cantz.