Laura Minton: Piano, Prints, Presepio Figures

Visitors to An Errant Line first enter the Ann Hamilton room, one of three in the exhibition, and encounter a view of harmonious, large-scale prints situated at varying heights on the walls. The Museum’s Bechstein piano is partially concealed by a rich, pleated rose-colored curtain of satin. The prints, made on Japanese Gampi paper attached to cheesecloth, display images of presepio figures produced on a scanner. The technology of the scanner generated images containing both blurred and focused areas situated against a soft, pink ombré background. The combination of blurred and sharply focused sections creates a viewing experience especially attuned to close-looking.

The presepio figures are dressed in elaborately detailed clothing and represent a range of 18th-century clothing styles, social classes, and body types. Visitors activate the images and the space, mirroring the gestures and basic positions of the figures. The figures’ hands appear in many of the prints, evoking movements and perceived interactions in space. Beginning to curl upwards at the corners, the prints continue to “live” and physically alter over time. The piano, played during the exhibition opening and scheduled for future concerts, completes the ambient atmosphere of the room. In a conversation with Cynthia Schira and Joan Simon at the opening, Hamilton suggested that the piano holds every note ever played on it. Even when silent, the instrument is a container for the memory of that music. The covered piano echoes the partially obscured figures and fits into the exhibition’s overarching connotations of revealing that which is hidden. Figura contains images of characters enlivened by air currents and visitor movements, as glimpsed out of the corner of the eye. The historical lineage of the objects is both preserved and altered.

Laura Minton, History of Art graduate student, University of Kansas

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