Mystery & Magic of Gary Erbe

Gary Erbe

Take a stroll down memory lane at the Canton Museum of Art by exploring nostalgic and enchanted works in the new exhibition entitled “The Mystery & Magic: The Trompe L’Oeil Vision of Gary Erbe,” opening April 24, 2015 and on view through July 19.

More than 35 pieces will be on display, featuring Erbe’s unique approach to trompe l’oeil painting (translated from French as “trick of the eye”), creating an optical illusion of two-dimensional space that is painted so convincingly that the viewer believes it is three-dimensional. Rather than painting trompe l’oeil architectural scenes, one of the most popular examples often found on inner-city murals, he brings inanimate objects to life on canvas in a surprisingly realistic manner. Erbe’s self-taught skillful paintings dazzle with lifelike compositions that are constructed of collaged still-life content drifting in mid-air. Erbe coined the term “Levitational Realism” to define his contribution to the trompe l’oeil legacy.

Gary Erbe

“My interest in trompe l’oeil goes back to the late 1960s when I discovered the 19th-century trompe l’oeil artists Harnett, Peto, and Haberle. For a brief period, I drew inspiration from these artists only to realize I had no desire to be a follower,” said Erbe. “While there are elements of trompe l’oeil in my work, I have less of an interest in fooling the eye in favor of stimulating the mind.”

At first glance, viewers are delighted by the themes in Erbe’s paintings, from his childhood passion for baseball, remembrance of the old-time movies, obsession with comic books, to a bygone collection of magician memorabilia. His canvases express the marvel of a simpler time but not without acknowledging life’s darker and more challenging moments also, touching on such themes as greed represented by a skeletal memento mori; the plight of the Native Americans; and the emergence of jazz under the thrall of racism.

Gary Erbe

In 2013, Erbe presented the Canton Museum of Art with two of his original paintings for the Museum’s expanding Permanent Collection. 76 Special, a smallish painting of a floating plated hot dog skewered by a dollar-bill on a toothpick, was painted in 1975. A much larger creation entitled Vanity and Time depicting bodybuilder ephemera was painted in 2010. The artist generously gifted the works in Memory of Muriel Koestler. Both Permanent Collection pieces will be on display for this special exhbition.

The Canton Museum of Art is located in the Cultural Center for the Arts, 1001 Market Avenue North, Canton, Ohio 44702.