Lecture 9: Fooled Again: Trompe l'oeil Revisited
Now that abstraction in various forms has held sway during much of the last hundred years, representational art does not have the authority it once had. However, many people are still fascinated by the capacity of art to represent things we not only cannot see or can only imagine—gods, angels, demons, unicorns, mermaids—but things we encounter in everyday life. People have long taken pleasure not only in representations of such things that are self-evidently hand-made—paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures—but in representations in which evidence of human making is not immediately apparent. In such cases, the artist provokes the viewer to mistake the representation for the thing represented itself. In this lecture, Ivan Gaskell looks at such deceptive phenomena in Western art practice, and asks what might actually be going on when we look at such pictures—the trompe l’oeil that fools the eye.
Ivan Gaskell is Professor of Cultural History and Museum Studies at the Bard Graduate Center, New York City, where he also Head of the Focus Project, coordinating research, teaching, exhibiting, and publishing. His work on material culture addresses intersections among history, art history, anthropology, museology, and philosophy. His many publications include Vermeer's Wager: Speculations on Art History, Theory, and Art Museums, and six co-edited books in the series Cambridge Studies in Philosophy and the Arts. He has contributed to numerous journals and edited volumes, and has curated many experimental exhibitions. He regularly writes contemporary art reviews for artUS.