Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Presents the Work of Argentine Conceptual Artist Leandro Erlich in June 2022

Two room-size immersive installations and additional works span the career of this acclaimed artist, whose psychological subversion of everyday spaces challenges our sense of balance, space, and the absolute

HOUSTON—March 3, 2022—Conceptual artist Leandro Erlich constructs visual paradoxes and optical illusions that force viewers to question their own perception of reality and acknowledge the infinite possibilities of their surroundings—a staircase that misleads to go nowhere; an elevator that appears partially stuck below ground; a swimming pool that appears to reflect one group of onlookers above the water’s surface and a different group below: everyday situations that Erlich renders confounding. Beginning in June, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will present two of the artist’s most iconic installations in the exhibition Leandro Erlich: Seeing Is Not Believing (June 26–September 5, 2022). These immersive environments and a selection of additional works will span the career of this acclaimed Argentine artist, whose psychological subversion of the everyday seems to defy the basic laws of physics and challenge our own sense of balance, space, and the absolute.

“Leandro Erlich has been mining the uncanny in the everyday for nearly 30 years. His work has been presented worldwide, yet not as frequently in the U.S.,” commented Gary Tinterow, Director and Margaret Alkek Williams Chair of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. “It is especially because Erlich began his artistic career here in Houston and at the MFAH, as a resident of the Core Program of the Glassell School of Art, that I am so pleased this will be both a homecoming for him and a revelation for our audiences.”

“Over more than 25 years, Leandro Erlich has deeply considered the emotional, social, and even sociopolitical dimensions of our everyday environments,” said Mari Carmen Ramírez, Wortham Curator of Latin American Art at the MFAH. “His interventions into ordinary spaces resonate perhaps even more so today, at a time when our collective sense of time and space has become fluid and uncertain.”

Erlich explores the perceptual bases of reality and our capacity to confront these fundamental foundations. The architecture of the everyday is a recurring theme in Erlich’s art, aimed at creating a dialogue between what we believe and what we see, just as he seeks to close the distance between the museum or gallery space and daily experience. As he said in a 2014 interview, he considers space “the ‘stage’ of our lives. … My work is like opening a window to see the new world and other realities.” 

Erlich’s inspiration has been drawn from the writing of Jorge Luis Borges, and the discomfiting films of directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Luis Buñuel, and David Lynch, all of whom, he has said, “have used the everyday as a stage for creating a fictional world obtained through the psychological subversion of everyday spaces.” 

Exhibition Overview
For this exhibition, the MFAH will present two large-scale, immersive installations: Le Cabinet du psy (The Psychoanalyst’s Office) (2005) and Bâtiment (2004), to anchor a selection of smaller-scale works. Spanning the artist’s career, with works from the MFAH collection and private Houston collections, the selections begin with his earliest architectural interventions, produced during 1997–99 and his residency as a Core Program Fellow at the Glassell School of Art of the MFAH, and culminate with his more recent explorations into the instability of the built environment:

  • In the site-specific environment that Erlich creates with his iconic Bâtiment (2004) he plays with reflections by juxtaposing a reproduction of a building façade with a monumental mirror. Lying on the gallery floor between the two elements, visitors can move, position, and see themselves in a gravity-defying illusion, seemingly suspended across the facade of a four-story, 19th-century French house.
  • To participate in Le Cabinet du psy (The Psychoanalyst’s Office) (2005), viewers enter one of two rooms, each separated from the other by a large glass panel. They then see their reflection projected within a psychoanalyst’s office. Even though they are unable to access that space, they experience the duality of being in two places at one time: on the outside peering in, and on the inside, peering out.
  • Elevator (1996) is a scaled-down version of an elevator car. Here, Erlich turns a familiar encounter inside out: the features usually found on the inside of an ordinary elevator—mirror, buttons, and handles—are presented on the exterior. Behind the grate, on the inside of the “elevator,” mirrors create the startling sensation of an infinitely deep elevator shaft. Ehrlich invites the viewer to consider what is real and what is an illusion.
  • Neighbors (1996) presents a segment of a corridor wall, as if from an apartment building interior, with two doors, both with peepholes. Ordinarily the peephole allows the person behind the door to peer out to the person in front of the door. In this case, however, the viewer sees instead the corridor of an apartment building and a neighbor’s door—a space that cannot possibly exist.
  • Projector Corridor (2007) comprises a trapezoidal box with images of apartment doors painted on the sides and front. As viewers peer through the peephole in the front door, they see the expanse of a residential hallway, thus giving the momentary illusion of being in two places at one time.
  • Night Flight (2015) juxtaposes two views through airplane windows—a day view with clouds on the left; a night view with city lights on the right—presenting day and night at once and conveying the bleary, disorienting perspectives induced by a red-eye flight.

About the Artist
Leandro Erlich, born in 1973, lives and works in Buenos Aires and Montevideo.

Over the past two decades, Erlich’s work has been shown internationally in a number of major solo exhibitions, including MALBA, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2019, 2015); CAFA Museum, Beijing, China (2019); Le Bon Marché, Paris, France (2018); Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan (2017); MUNTREF, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2016); ZKM, Germany (2015); 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan (2014); MMCA, Seoul, Korea (2014); Barbican Center, London (2013); MoMA PS1, New York (2008); and MACRO Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome, Italy (2006). He represented Argentina at the 2005 Venice Biennale; his work has been included in exhibitions at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem (2017); Shanghai Art Festival, China (2013); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France (2011); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Spain (2008); Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2006); Nuit Blanche de Paris, France (2004); 26th São Paulo Biennale, Argentina (2004); and Havana Biennale, Cuba (2000), among others.

His work is in private and public collections around the world, including those of the Museum of Modern Art, Buenos Aires; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Tate Modern, London; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; and 21st FNAC, France.

Organization & Funding
Leandro Erlich: Seeing Is Not Believing is organized by Mari Carmen Ramírez, Wortham Curator of Latin American Art; and Rachel Mohl, assistant curator of Latin American art, at the MFAH.

Major support is provided by:
Leslie and Brad Bucher

Generous support is provided by:
Baker McKenzie
Silvia Salle and Peter T. Wood

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Spanning 14 acres in the heart of Houston’s Museum District, the MFAH main campus comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, the Caroline Wiess Law Building, the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, and the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building. Nearby, two house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present collections of American and European decorative arts. The MFAH is also home to the Glassell School of Art, with its Core Residency Program and Junior and Studio schools; and the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), a leading research institute for 20th-century Latin American and Latino art. Additional resources include a repertory cinema; two significant research libraries: the Hirsch Library and the Powell Library and Study Center at Bayou Bend; public archives; a conservation studio; and an off-site storage facility. The MFAH collections include in-depth holdings of Pre-Columbian and African gold, American art, European paintings, and distinguished international collections of modern and contemporary art. Particular strengths are in postwar American painting; postwar Latin American art, with a focus on Concrete and Constructive art from Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, as well as contemporary photo-based work and large-scale installations; international photography, with notable concentrations in Japanese, Latin American, and Central European photography as well as American and Western European; prints and drawings, including the entire 1980–1994 archive portfolio of Peter Blum Editions; and international decorative arts, craft, and design, in particular contemporary.

Media Contact
Melanie Fahey, Senior Publicist | 713.800.5345