Evidence of Houdini's Return
236.2 cm x 236.2 cm x 25.4 cm (93 in. x 93 in. x 10 in.)
(Fort Worth, Texas, 1943 – )
North America, American
Medium and Support:
Oil, blackboard slating, wooden shelf with cast and painted polyurethane on board
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Purchase through the Michener Acquisitions Fund and with support from Linda Pace, 2001
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.