Monday, August 24, 2015

The Amazing World of M.C. Escher

When we got to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, and started walking around, we were excited to see the Modern Art Museum featuring an M.C. Escher exhibition. I was weaned on Escher at a young age, sitting in my grandfather Emil’s armchair by the fireplace and carefully paging through his big coffee table books of Escher’s works. It was exciting to visit this exhibit and see the prints up close – they look so much more detailed than the reproductions I have seen. Being able to see Drawing Hands, Snakes, and my personal favorite, Castrovalva, up close was very special. Even more special was being able to see the letters he exchanged with Coxeter and Penrose about mathematics and technique. Also, I never really understood his business model before, never understood how much he was very much trying to make prints that people would buy, and trying to maximize their value. His work always had an incomplete quality, to me. He wasn’t really building a world, just giving glimpses into something. When I was young, I always assumed the rest of the world was out there somewhere – that the books just only showed small fragments of it, for some reason. To be an adult now, and to realize that no, these few fragments are all that exist is very sad. To think that a relatively small number of these beautifully rendered, but somewhat sterile fragments are all that exists to represent a human life, and that there never was any more to that world, and there never will be, just an eccentric artist trying to make what people would buy is somewhat disheartening. I guess the other side of the coin is the insane perfection in his work. Doing that kind of work as ink, and as lithographs, and some even more esoteric methods, sometimes spending months on a single print, requires a level of perfection that is hard to even think about, And while his small collection of pictures might seem a little sad, how much sadder are the thousands of artists who slave their whole lives and are not remembered at all? His combination of unique perspective and intense perfection has ensured that his work will live on. I think that Escher is best remembered for his limited collaborations with mathematicians. The lesson I take away most of all is this – if you work alone, your work will be limited. If you would build something large, if you would build a whole world, you must work with a team, and accept and embrace everything that entails.

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