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American Paintings - 1980-present

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Evidence of Houdini's Return

20th century
236.2 cm x 236.2 cm x 25.4 cm (93 in. x 93 in. x 10 in.)

Vernon Fisher (Fort Worth, Texas, 1943 – ) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Oil, blackboard slating, wooden shelf with cast and painted polyurethane on board
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Purchase through the Michener Acquisitions Fund and with support from Linda Pace, 2001
Accession Number: 2001.94

Vernon Fisher creates complex visual narratives from enigmatic combinations of images, objects, and text. By placing together seemingly disjunctive elements—a photograph, a chalkboard, a cartoon—he challenges viewers to invent their own meanings from what they see.
Fisher’s constructions primarily explore processes of memory. Working in his studio from an ever-expanding archive of texts and images, he shuffles and rearranges maps, charts, diagrams torn from scientific journals, personal photographs, and pictures appropriated from magazines and newspapers. When he can see a story unfolding, he embellishes it with drawings and handwritten text, presumably authentic statements in the artist’s hand. But sleight-of-hand invariably trumps authenticity in these impeccably crafted works.
Evidence of Houdini’s Return is one in a series of blackboard paintings that trick the eye with illusions. What is real? What is fabricated? What and how do we believe what we see? His tour-de-force trompe l’oeil painting technique is as sly as a magician’s act. The fictional visual tale reads like memory itself—shifting, open-ended, and ambiguous.

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