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What’s in a Lenticular Picture?

“Each substance of a grief hath twenty shadows,
Which shows like grief itself, but is not so;
For sorrow’s eye, glazed with blinding tears,
Divides one thing entire to many objects;
Like perspectives, which rightly gazed upon
Show nothing but confusion, eyed awry
Distinguish form

Richard II, Act II, Scene 2

This dialogue by Shakespeare very likely refers to lenticular pictures — those accordion-pleated creations that show different images when you look at them from the left or right. In Shakespeare’s time and in the 20th century, lenticulars were manufactured as amusing distractions. Today, the technique is finding a home in fine art — including this month at The Art League.

Lenticulars in history

One of the first examples of a lenticular picture still in existence is the Double Portrait of King Frederik IV and Queen Louise of Mecklenburg-Güstow of Denmark by Gaspar Antoine de Bois-Clair, signed 1692.

As you can see in the photo, this type of lenticular picture uses a corrugated structure to achieve the effect. Look at it from the left, you see the king; from the right, the queen; and if you look at it straight ahead, you get a mish-mash of both.

Starting in the 1950s, companies like Vari-Vue were able to mass-produce lenticular images through lenticular printing — a novelty you’re probably familiar with from Cracker Jack boxes and baseball cards:

Image from toyring.com

These flickering images are the result of the same principle but a different process: the images are behind a small, ribbed plastic lens that shifts what’s in focus.

Lenticulars as fine art

Artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and especially Yaacov Agam have used lenticular design in their artwork.

Photographer Sally Canzoneri began creating lenticular prints for a specific exhibit proposal: it was to be displayed in NoMa, a DC neighborhood that was undergoing a lot of change. While considering how best to show that change, Canzoneri happened to see this tutorial on creating lenticular images.

It was a match.

U.S. Capitol Steps: 1968 & 2017 by Sally Canzoneri

“I’ve found that people get drawn into them in a way they don’t get drawn into my flat pictures,” Canzoneri said. The way viewers engage with the content “comes — at least in part — from the fact that the viewing experience is broken up and blended in an unusual way.”

It can also lead to happy accidents. In the print seen in the video at the top of this post, women’s marches from 1913 and 2017 intersect. Because of the way the images overlap, when viewing the black-and-white image, you can see a slight pink glow above the 1913 marchers’ heads.

How it works

Canzoneri’s prints use the old-fashioned accordion style, not the plastic lens. It’s a more hands-on endeavor, and one that took some experimenting to refine.

It starts, of course, with two images. Using Photoshop, Canzoneri stitches together strips from each image, for a final product that looks like this when printed:

Then, using a carpenter’s square, she carefully folds it into the accordion shape. After a few tries, Canzoneri found the right type of paper to use and the correct fold depth (about an inch).

Double Takes

Which brings us to “Double Takes” — Canzoneri’s exhibit of lenticular photographs on view now at The Art League. You can catch these images through February 4, 2018.

Bring your walking shoes — the better to interact with the artwork. And, Canzoneri says, she hopes the photos encourage viewers to “go outside and look around with fresh eyes.”

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