Evan Pennys sculptures portray human bodies in their true colors and down to the last hair, with all of their wrinkles and characteristic features. His figures, to which he skillfully applies layers of silicone and pigments and implants with real hair, have an extremely sensuous presence. And yet their artificiality is obvious. Alienation techniques such as compressions, stretching, distortions, or color errors cause them to be reminiscent of features of photography, television, or digital image editing. What evolves are anamorphic sculptures that grow out of two-dimensionality, three-dimensional portraits that come across as being flawed process-color prints, or even distorted sculptures that advance into the fourth dimension of time.
When asked to describe his current working phase, which is being celebrated for the first time on such a large scale in the exhibition Evan Penny. Re Figured, in one sentence, the Canadian artist, born in 1953 in South Africa, replied: I try to situate my sculpture somewhere between the way we perceive each other in real time and space and the way we perceive ourselves and each other in an image. He has hybrid beings emerge in these worlds in between who by virtue of the photographic precision of their surfaces and their physical penetration of our living space, overwhelm the viewer. They confront us with the deformations of the image of the human being in our media age. Each sculpture represents a materialized mental experiment that the artist himself describes as follows: What would happen if I take a distortion of the human body that is normalized in an image context, that we might assume belongs exclusively to the image world, and bring that into the space we physically occupy? His works supply us with the answer: a strong emotional reaction full of abysmal horror and insatiable fascination.
This first survey exhibition to be presented in a museum setting, organized by the Kunsthalle Tübingen
, includes approximately forty sculptures, in part larger than life, as well as a series of photographic prints. The show makes reference to the history of the venue: in 1972, the Kunsthalle Tübingen exhibited works by the New York-based artist George Segal, who with his plaster body casts turned away from abstract sculpture in the sense of a sociocritical realism. He was followed in 1991 by Duane Hanson, whose painted polyester resin figures installed him as the founder of hyper realistic sculpture. Once again, with Evan Penny, a sculptor is being presented twenty years later who carried this development to a climax and in a certain respect brought it to a close. Following the presentation in Tübingen, the exhibition will also be shown at the Museum der Moderne in Salzburg, Austria; the Museo delle arti Catanzaro in Italy; and at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Pennys hometown of Toronto, Canada. The exhibition is being accompanied by a catalogue edited by Daniel J. Schreiber and published by the Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne. It includes contributions by David Moos, Alberto Fiz, Evan Penny, Veit Ziegelmaier, and the editor.