Contemporary Art Expresses Fantastical Reality

By Teresa Fanzo

Peter Hamlin’s “Living Matrix Palace.” Photo by Teresa Fanzo.

A new exhibit at Lehman College Art Gallery, Castles in the Sky: Fantasy Architecture in Contemporary Art, features architecture with a twist, conjuring an imaginative reality.

The show, which opened on October 13, 2018, highlights the work of artists from different backgrounds and aesthetics. Lehman senior Eric Ramirez, a graphic design major, observed, “The artists are creating works that push the boundaries of architecture in ways that reflect their individual stories and life experiences”. 

Some artists chose to go to extreme lengths by making enormous sculptures while others created simple paintings drenched with symbolism. Robert Hite’s “River Tower, 2007” is an example of one these huge sculptures. The impossible-seeming sculpture droops at the top, almost like a dying flower, representing the merging of fantasy and reality by standing tall despite its sad droopy quality. 

Gustovo Acosta’s “Eclipse.” Photo by Teresa Fanzo.

Robert Hite’s “River Tower.” Photo courtesy of Marie-Claire Milius.

Robert Hite’s “River Tower.” Photo courtesy of Marie-Claire Milius.

Julie Langsam expresses this idea more directly in her painting, “Gropius Landscape (Master’s House Kandinsky / Klee), 2014,” which shows a modern house with a cloudy sky. The bottom half of the painting is abstract with three big blocks, each containing different patterns made up of smaller blocks. The colors in the bottom half are similar to the ones in the top, a movement which represents reality shifting into the abstract.

Laurent Chéhère’s painting “Cabaret, 2017” is smaller, at 90 x 90 cm. The painting shows a floating house with an elephant hanging at the bottom. The artist brings her own twist by adding things to fit the theme of a carnival, such as a doll face and a lollipop as well as the elephant, likewise showing the merging of reality and fantasy. 

The strange elements are what seem unreal here, the doll face especially, all turning out to be real things. The fantasy element comes with floating sky. This modestly sized painting also shows that within the exhibition space, not one size or type of piece overpowers another. 

All the pieces in the gallery use architecture to represent the idea of the convergence of fantasy and reality, while fostering an atmosphere of wonder. The artists featured in the exhibit created pieces that portrayed the unimaginable, impractical, and inspiring designs for architecture that tests their own boundaries and reality itself in ways that are almost shocking. 

Lehman senior and art major Jadie Meprivert said, “Each piece is able to shine.”