Monday, January 21, 2008

Paula Scher's Tsunami Map

Paula Scher's map, "Tsunami", acrylic on canvas, 2006. 113.5 x 92 in.

“These are absolutely, one hundred percent inaccurate,” Paula Scher declares of her colossal map paintings. Then, after a pause: “But not on purpose.” Another pause: they’re actually “sort of right.” And therein lies their bracing paradox. Scher’s sites—Manhattan, Israel, and India among them—are instantly recognizable. Scanning the allover expanse of the canvases, you might easily pick out the swath of Central Park, the void of the Dead Sea, the dot of Mumbai. But they are also highly interpretive. She makes them with brush and paint, rather than keyboard and printer. Most importantly, she makes them in rebellion against what she calls the excess of “useless information” in the information age. The profusion of text—words spilling off landmasses and jutting or swirling out to sea—recalls the cacophonous crawls of a cable news broadcast. Tsunami suggests its subject compositionally, its texts running in a radiating circle around the eye of the ruinous wave.

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