In his book Simulacra and Simulations, Jean Baudrillard describes the “simulacra” as a representation so extensively copied that it no longer resembles the original, therefore the result becomes a thing of its own. North Carolina artist Anne Lemanski engages this concept in her exhibition “Simulacra” at the McColl Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Lemanski asks the viewer to be skeptical of the imagery she replicates in her sculptures and collages.
The viewer first encounters a wooden display case containing artifacts—oversaturated cut-out illustrations of animals taken out of encyclopedias and text books. These are the originals the starting point of the replicas to follow. The collected imagery embodies the human relationship with nature at-large.
In attempt to breathe life into a few of the illustrations, Lemanski enlarged the images from inches to feet, then sewed the prints onto a metal armature. The result is an angular taxidermy of an impala, a rabbit and a spider in animated positions. In the final attempt at bringing these strange illustrations to life, the sculptures are placed next to geometrical forms that somehow make the angular animal sculptures appear organic. If the installation were a diorama, the geometric forms would be the greenery. The blown-up versions of the printed images reveal the Ben-Day dots, which are suggestive of fur. The texture is alluring, if sentimental—why work with sources composed of outdated Ben-Day dots instead of the pixelation or distortions associated with contemporary technology? Regardless, this installation cunningly shows that these images are unrealistic despite any amount of immaculate crafting applied to them.
A series of collages titled Blue Go-Go hang on the walls surrounding the installation. More than a dozen wood-mounted prints act as repeated iterations of the same experiment, only this time the images remain two-dimensional. The sizable collages contain cutouts on a blue background and are layered with similar geometric forms as the installation. Other illustrations, such as a salt shaker, a skull, and jewels, appear in these collages, which are also nostalgic, possibly because of the abundance of saturation and stylization in the older prints.
Lemanski takes what is already a simulation (the found illustrations) and pushes the simulation into the realm of Baudrillard’s “hyperreal.” Though the nostalgic, kitschy imagery distracts from her concept, the execution of the work is thorough. By expanding the scale of the original forms, Lemanski systematically reveals cultural illusions. The idealized imagery raises expectations of beauty that cannot be satisfied by reality.
Anne Lemanski’s exhibition “Simulacra” is on view through January 2 at the McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte.