I can’t think of a more suitable artist for a pop-up art book than M.C. Escher. In M.C. Escher Pop-Ups, Courtney Watson McCarthy, a graphic designer and “paper engineer” based in upstate New York, presents a handful of Escher’s most well-known pieces, transforming them—in as much as it’s possible—into three-dimensional objects. Because Escher himself based his work on a “dissatisfaction with the two dimensions of the flat paper,” this progression seems only natural.
While I was very excited at first about M.C. Escher Pop-Ups, as I looked more closely, I realized that something of the impossible perspectives and tessellations—those illusions that take form and escape from the drawings—is lost in the translation into three-dimensional pieces. I found myself searching for the originals on-line in order to get an idea of how exactly they appeared. The simple fact is that rendering Escher’s drawings into three dimensions dissolves the magic of their impossible reality. It’s almost as if, in order to preserve the spirit of the originals, the three-dimensional representations would have to somehow depict an unobtainable fourth dimension.
This is not at all to say that McCarthy fails to capture the essence of Escher’s works. In fact, she very creatively constructs the iconic brainteasers, using different pop-up techniques to fit individual pieces. Her rendering of Other World, for example, is very innovative, in that she creates a three-dimensional whole out of a drawing of views of an impossible whole. All in all, M.C. Escher Pop-Ups is a thoroughly enjoyable book. As far as three-dimensional renderings of Escher drawings are concerned, they are equally as impossible as the drawings themselves.
M.C. Escher Pop-Ups
by Courtney Watson McCarthy
New York: Thames and Hudson, 2011
16 pages, 10 illustrations, $29.95