What is the joke? What is the point? Discovering Leandro Erlich at the Neuberger Museum

Leandro Erlich was born in 1973 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  He is a conceptual artist and has contributed to the Venice Biennial, the Whitney Biennial, and been exhibited by MOMA PS1 in Long Island City.  His work is currently part of the permanent collection at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan.  He is famous for his artistic illusions in which the image seen is not what it seems to be.  His artwork at the Neuberger shows off Mr. Erlich’s creativity and unusual wit.  I have chosen two pieces  to focus on here.
The first is from his Bâtiment (Building in English) group, dated 2011.  Erlich’s Building installations have been exhibited around the world, starting in Paris in 2004.  The artist used mirrors to reflect the façade of a fake building constructed face up on the ground.
This piece of artwork is a photographic print (inkjet print on Hahnemuhle textured William Turner paper).  The photograph seems to show people dangerously hanging and swinging from the building windows, ledges and balustrades when in reality they are just crawling on a constructed façade lying flat on the floor.  Visitors at the exhibits were invited to participate in the creation, making the perceptual “trick” a delight rather than an annoying deception.

Erlich Building print people crawling

The second image is called Pulled by the Roots I and dated 2015.  It is also a photographic print (inkjet print on Hahnemuhle textured William Turner paper) and shows a similar altered reality.   This time Erlich suspends a model of a historic building over the apparent town center of a German city.  The “roots” attached to the base of the building make it appear that the house has been torn from its location like an uprooted tree.  The museum includes this quote from Erlich explaining his intention:  “’In the modern era we are tempted to see human innovation as inorganic and divorced from the natural world…. [But] we can never be apart from the organic world; the architecture that we create is part and parcel of our environment.’”  The image seems to tell of the painful and disruptive impact of losing old buildings, which are an important part of our social, cultural and historical roots.  But, at the same time, the hand intruding on the image on the lower right shows the illusion and the artist’s manipulation of the image to create his message.
Erlich suspended house
Erlich seems to enjoy using a visual play with reality to both have some fun and make an important point.
To learn more about Erlich’s art and the Neuberger Museum, visit the museum Website:  https://www.neuberger.org.

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