What comes to mind when you think of life–size printed images? Naturally, some may reflect on their prized cardboard cutouts of Kristen Stewart as Bella Swan (definitely not this writer). But luckily for the rest of us, the Print Center’s latest exhibition, "To Scale," considers the full implications of what it means for an artist to print to scale. Ten different artists work with printed forms and photography to produce works in a one–to–one ratio with their real–world references. It’s a concept that sounds dry on paper, but dull it is not! In fact, "To Scale" is a true feast — nay, a buffet! — for the eyes and mind in its exploration of the consequences of life–size printing.

The technique of trompe–l'oeil, applied throughout the history of art, aims to trick the viewer into thinking he or she is not looking at a mere representation of an object but the object itself. Artist Kay Healy cleverly turns this notion on its head. One of the most prominent contributors to the exhibition with almost 20 works on display, Healy’s wheat–pasted screen prints of household items ranging from lamps, radios and tables use the vocabulary of trompe–l’oeil without all of its pretensions. At a distance, one might mistake them for their actual counterparts, but a closer inspection reveals their simply twee and ultimately charming qualities.

Nichola Kinch and Gary Kachadourian further explore this concept in a remarkable large–scale work, House. The piece is a real showstopper: a life–size fiberglass–mounted photograph of a stairwell that hangs away from the gallery walls with precise cutouts, providing the viewer a look into a false reality. View it head–on and you’ll glimpse a set of stairs leading up to the ceiling; move five inches to the right and you’ll see a flat plane hanging on wires. It’s a witty trick of the eye as much as a conceptual game.

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But it’s not all about the trompe–l’oeil in this show. Take Jenn Figg’s stunning Deadfall (canopy gap), a lush woodland scene constructed by photographs wrapped around cylindrical and leaf–shaped forms that imitate the image of a tree. It sounds interesting enough, but what prevents Deadfall from being a simple mind trick is its display of the corrugated cardboard on the interior of this “tree,” a bold reference to the very elements that created it.
The Print Center’s “To Scale” guides viewers through a journey across one–to–one representation, illustrating that this sort of printed image is not merely a stale attempt to imitate reality, but a way to uncover the shifting relationships between signifier and signified, between the eye and mind.

The Print Center  Now–Nov. 19, Tues–Sat, 11 a.m.–5:30 p.m. 1614 Latimer St. (215) 735–6090 printcenter.org