Paper trail

Uruguayan artist Marco Maggi brings his white bond paper-based exhibit, "American Ream," to Syracuse's Warehouse Gallery.

To see is to believe, or at least that’s what we’ve always heard.  When viewing Marco Maggi’s American Ream, leave this adage at the door.

Known for his use of commonplace material, Uruguayan artist Maggi uses everyday white bond paper, seen stacked about the floor of the Warehouse Gallery, for his current exhibition. By deliberately arranging a maze of paper piled on top of each other, Maggi creates an obstacle course where viewers instantly feel the need to gingerly negotiate the space, lest they topple the artwork and go down in gallery history as “the ones that ruined the Maggi exhibition.”

Photo: Courtesy of The Warehouse Gallery

As viewers make their way through the organized stacks, their eyes adjust to the constant white. Maggi’s miniscule cutouts become apparent on the top sheet of each pile and their curiosity finally leads them to lean in and inspect these anomalies.

Bending down to view the top sheets is reminiscent of being a passenger peering out the window while on a plane’s final descent.  Clouds give way to small geometric shapes, which in turn become sprawling cityscapes.  In American Ream, small arcs become bridges, T-shape cut-outs become imposing architectural landmarks and paper swirls become rollercoasters. “This reminds me of a circus,” claimed one student, who was lying on the floor to examine a long sweeping curl delicately attached to the topmost paper. 

For the physically challenged, or those who want an even closer view of the work, a video installation is available in an adjacent room.  There, Maggi’s work is magnified and his painstaking work on each bond paper is emphasized with expert lighting and photography that pure white subjects demand.

While the Lilliputian cityscape is absorbing, the lone work hanging on one of the gallery’s walls is illusion at its purest. What at first seems like an intricate geometric design recalling the frenetic pace of city life is finally revealed to be just shadows reflecting on a white paper surface. The actual design is on a plexi-glass sheet, on which Maggi carved out his artwork. 

Though the illusion is revealed, the mind still refuses to believe it, obstinately signaling the viewer’s eyes to interpret the shadows as pencil drawing on white paper.  “We have too much faith in our senses,” said Maggi, as he spoke to a class of Goldring Arts Journalism students who were invited to scrutinize his exhibition. Indeed, when confronted with his plexi-glass piece, the viewer is reminded how persistent the brain is, even when it is privy to the deception playing out. 

Aside from delighting the senses with optical illusions, American Ream successfully puts to task the reliability of our senses, leading viewers ask, “How much of what I know is true?” and “How am I to believe it?”

Go see it

Marco Maggi’s American Ream is on view at the Warehouse Gallery at 350 West Fayette St., through Nov. 17. For more information, visit the Warehouse Gallery site.

For more on arts and culture in Syracuse, check out our Muse House blog.


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