Through That Which Is Seen – Palo Alto Art Center

January 20 – April 8, 2018

This exhibition will include sculpture, photography, painting, and video spotlighting the use of dioramas in contemporary art.

The history of dioramas goes back at least as far as 2600 BC, when ancient Egyptian royalty and nobles were buried with carved illustrations of everyday life, including boats setting sail, granaries, and scenes of bread and beer preparation. They were meant to ensure that the deceased would be taken care of in the afterlife, and included tremendous detail. For example, at least two boats were usually placed in tombs — one rigged for sailing south with the prevailing winds, and one rigged for rowing north with the current of the Nile.

Much can be said about why the practice of creating miniature worlds persists, and in particular why so many contemporary artists find this art form to be a useful tool of expression. Dioramas can turn even the most mundane of subjects into something special and worthy of attention; they direct focus and consideration on their narratives, encouraging an extended gaze; they are a means of escape from the everyday and a window into the dream world; they facilitate a suspension of belief; and at their best, like those earliest examples, blend fantasy and reality so seamlessly we are magically transported into another dimension.

Each of the artists in this exhibition wants to tell you a story. Some of these stories are full of alienation and dark humor, and some crystalize a feeling of foreboding or a coming apocalypse. Others are carefully crafted social commentaries, either about current events or about the controversial history of the diorama itself. Many are pure reverie. All of them reflect the careful craftsmanship and inner dream worlds of their makers.

Participating artists include:
Matthew Albanese
Gregory Euclide
Abigail Goldman
Won Ju Lim
Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz
Didier Massard
Michael McMillen
Nix & Gerber
David Opdyke
Curtis Talwst Santiago
Joshua Smith
Wendy Red Star
Charles Young