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Erika Mahr
Hap Gallery, Portland, Oregon
Recommendation by Richard Speer

Erika Mahr, "Overlay," 2012, charcoal on black paper, 51 x 50"

Continuing through January 30, 2016

New York-based artist Erika Mahr toys with viewers’ perception in her playful, yet formally austere, exhibition of drawings, “Content Aware.” At first, the works read as abstract. A closer look seems to validate this impression, betraying myriad pattern-based lines and shapes. However, after more intense observation representational objects assert themselves. Take the time and you will discover a hitherto hidden referent.

This occurs in much the same fashion as in the well-known Rubin Vase illusion, wherein an image of a goblet pivots to an image of two faces, and back again.  Mahr bases her charcoal drawings, all executed on black paper, on initial images of netting and blankets, which, via PhotoShop’s “content-aware fill” function, she digitally warps and otherwise manipulates. With adroit technique and compositional savoir-faire, she finesses the finished works into liminal dialogues between purely optical effects and the connotations of actual objects. A full 101 years after psychologist Edgar Rubin created his famous illusion, it’s intriguing to see its guiding retinal/psychological principle reinterpreted by an observant and inventive contemporary artist.

Hap Gallery

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