Abraham Lincoln's head glowed through the gallery window. Even from a distance, the bust is impressive. Large and swathed in light, the piece seemed to beckon, "Just wait until you get inside. Wait until you see me up close." That took a while. The opening event for "Conjoined III: The Final Chapter" at Santa Monica's Copro Gallery, curated by artist Chet Zar, was packed. But after about a half-hour of crafty maneuvering through a dense crowd, I came face to sculpted face with the 16th president of the United States.
Lincoln, by Kazu Tsuji, is a 45-inch bust. On its stand, the piece is 80 inches high, taller than the famously towering president. Its size lends an air of majesty to something that bears all the imperfections of humanity. The brow furrows. The eyes hang heavy. Inside the gallery, Lincoln appears greater than human, yet consumed by all the worries of the nation.
By day, Tsuji is a special effects and prosthetics make-up artist with loads of credits to his name. He's the artist who made Joseph Gordon-Levitt look like a young Bruce Willis in Looper. Like many of the participants in "Conjoined III," Tsuji excels at blurring the line between fantasy and reality.
For three years, Chet Zar has brought together a diverse group to focus on "dimensional" art. This year's show appeared larger than in the past. Zar, who has amassed a large following for his own work, recently released the book Black Magick and was signing copies at the event. As was the case last year, the show included those who work primarily in the gallery world and those who best known for their skills on movie sets. With artists working in everything from bronze to silicone, the results are always eclectic. This year's work included the sleek, the macabre, the hyperreal and the surreal. It's a show that will mess with your head. Your jaw might drop -- "Is that Mr. T? No, it's a bust of Mr.T." -- as you squeeze through the gallery.
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