Friday, October 29, 2010
A century after Harry Houdini thrilled audiences with daring escapes from handcuffs, straitjackets and watery tombs, the legendary magician has conjured a major art museum exhibition that explores his enduring legacy.
"Houdini: Art and Magic," which opened recently at the Jewish Museum in New York City, tells the story of an impoverished son of Jewish immigrants who harnessed the power of the mass media, and the emerging technologies of film and photography, to become one of the 20th century's most famous performers.
Scattered amid the historic photographs, Art Nouveau posters and archival films are more than two dozen recent works by such well-known artists as Matthew Barney, Vik Muniz and Raymond Pettibon that attest to Houdini's continuing influence as the consummate illusionist. The museum also displays some of his magic props, including handcuffs, shackles, a straitjacket, a milk can and a packing trunk that were featured in various escape acts.