Sunday, September 25, 2011

Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age

Immediately prior to the start of the Fall semester I ventured off on the dread 405 to the Skirball Cultural Center to see the blockbuster "Harry Houdini" exhibition. It was paired with a sister exhibition titled: "Masters of Illusion - Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age". Apparently, the "Golden Age" refers to the years 1875 - 1948, when feats of amazing legerdemain were performed live in front of an appreciative audience. After 1948, the mesmerizing was done via the little one-eyed god of the living room.

Good times! At the latter, I was utterly & completely taken with a
child-sized mechanical man named "Antonio Diavolo," created by the French magician Robert Houdin in the 1800's. As you may have guessed from the similarity in his adopted moniker, Houdin was Houdini's hero. Antonio was completely restored in 1986, & besides being an incredibly beautiful object, he can perform the most amazing feats of acrobatics (including going "hands-off") on his trapeze bar. Quite the clockwork toy. Should you go, make certain to take the time to watch the short video that shows him in action.

Sadly, the Houdini portion of the exhibition has moved on to other venues. Happily, the "Masters of Illusion" portion with all of its splendid & large lithographic posters & playbills (hence the printmaking/graphic design connection) will remain in place until 1/8/2012. Located at 2701 North Sepulveda Blvd., parking is always free. There's a docent led tour of the exhibition every Tuesday - Sunday that starts at 2:30 PM. Don't forget, this "mini-Getty" is free to the public on Thursdays.

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