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Realistic art from pop to now at NOLA museum

Associated Press Modified: November 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm •  Published: November 17, 2012

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — It's art that tempts you. All those "do not touch" signs are essential.

You want to poke at Jud Nelson's "Hefty 2-Ply" to confirm that the full trash bag really is carved from marble. You want to touch a tentative fingertip to tiny weeds that seem to sprout from the floor and wall, and to clamber onto a folding chair with a shoulder-high seat.

They're all part of "Lifelike," a traveling exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art through Jan. 27.

Thomas Demand's video "Rain/Regen" creates the illusion of rain with 7,800 stop-action frames of cellophane candy wrappers and the sound of frying eggs. A 1950s-style folding table is big enough for Abraham Lincoln to walk beneath, while a nearby pair of elevators has operating doors 8 inches high — 3 ½ inches shorter than Barbie.

"What is real? What does it mean when images and objects cannot be relied upon to tell the truth?" said Miranda Lash, NOMA's curator of modern and contemporary art. "I think it's a question all the more relevant now, in the age of Photoshop and digital manipulation, of a world where images can be misleading. ... I think artists are very aware of that conundrum. They play with that."

Siri Engberg, curator at the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis, brought together the exhibition of work by 55 artists from Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns to Mungo Thomson and Ai Weiwei, who was artistic consultant for China's "bird's nest" Olympic stadium. It will move next to the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego (Feb. 24-May 26) and the University of Texas at Austin's Blanton Museum of Art (June 23-Sept. 29).

Engberg said she had been struck by the number of younger artists who are meticulously recreating mundane objects by hand in an age of easier and more accessible mass production, and wanted to show the history of hyper-realism from the '60s to young artists like Yoshihiro Suda and Vija Celmins.

"They are not photorealists doing slick urban scenes or shiny cars or diners. These are things like a paper bag, an eraser, a comb — very ordinary objects they brought back to life by remaking them," Engberg said.

The exhibit is both chronological, from the pop art of Warhol's oversized wooden Brillo boxes to Demand's "Rain/Regen" (the same word in German, his native tongue), and thematic. "Common Objects," with Celmins' 20-inch-long wooden Eberhard Faber eraser and photorealistic paintings by Robert Bechtle, flows into "The Uncanny," which includes a painted bronze life-sized sculpture of a blue nylon sleeping bag with a hidden occupant curled up inside.

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