Houdini and Art in Madison Wisconsin

Inside Magic Image of the Great HoudiniFor a dead guy, he sure does get around.  Houdini packed 'em in at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art last Friday as "Houdini: Art and Magic" opened.

According to press reports, a talk by the show's curator was standing room only and the galleries were packed. 

The Jewish Museum in New York assembled the show and it is making its sole Midwest stop on the way home from a very successful run in Los Angeles. 

Critics noted that the show is "a bit of a departure for MMoCA, which tends to focus more straightforwardly on modern and contemporary art, but the show is already proving to have wide crossover appeal."

While visitors can enjoy watching rare video clips of the star's greatest escapes, they can check out  more conventional art  from the world of sculpture and painting.

One critic notes:

Heavy chains in Petah Coyne's sculpture, Untitled #698 (Trying to Fly, Houdini's Chandelier), recall those with which Houdini bound himself for feats of escape. The piece's suspension from the ceiling brings to mind the many stunts he performed while dangling over crowded city streets. Coyne's work compels the viewer with its brooding, mysterious presence, rather than a literal representation of Houdini.

Some of my other favorites included Jane Hammond's large-scale paintings, one of which shows Houdini on a tightrope, performing his needle trick (in which he swallowed sewing needles and then pulled them from his mouth on a string). In this case, the silhouettes of women in pre-Civil War dress hang strangely from the string. The simplified, graphic composition of Hammond's painting calls to mind posters for his appearances, some of which are on view here.

Read more at The Isthmus here.