After viewing the Frida and Diego exhibit, we went up to the Contemporary section on the 5th floor to see Evan Penny's incredibly life-like, yet warped sculptures of human heads and torsos. We first encountered Penny's work when one of his sculptures (Stretch #1) was displayed in the gallery when the AGO reopened after its renovations. It was amazing to see the the details of every pore, wrinkle and facial hair on the skin. This time around, Stretch #1 is joined by 30 other sculptures in a larger exhibit that gave insight into Penny's process and body of work.
Penny would start from a rough pencil sketch of his source figure, and then use Photoshop to morph, stretch or skew it to the desired proportions. He then sculpts using modeling clay and covers it with a rubber mould that peels off to be the base of the sculpture. On top of the mould is applied layers of silicone, which gives the figure its hyper-realistic qualities, using techniques that Penny learned while working with Gordon Smith's FXSmith company (of X-Men fame). The eyes are separately created including painting of the eyeballs and carefully adding veins. Facial hair is added by individually punching strands of human or animal hair into the silicone. Penny created self-portrait sculptures based on a photo from his youth as well as projections of what he would look like in his later years
Unlike Stretch #1 which is clearly distorted, a series of sculptures are shown that appear to be fully 3-dimensional and proportional when looking at them straight on. But viewing them from the side reveals their flattened nature. Penny has a few works that show the back of the head and torso. When you approach it and try to look around, you realize that there is no face attached. Penny created a sculpture of his friend Libby Faux and then made another version called L.Faux CMYK. This second piece superimposes three coloured (blue, yellow, red) versions of the same image in a skewed manner that simulates a blurry photograph that was taken with insufficient light. Looking at it, your eyes keep trying to merge the images back together into a single solid form.