Thomas Leavitt Review

Thomas W. Leavitt examines a Llhurocian artifact from the exhibit

Standing before a temple door as a backdrop, Thomas W. Leavitt examines a Llhuroscian artifact from the exhibit.

Art in America, March-April 1972

Norman Daly at Cornell

Recently “excavated” artifacts, ritual objects, architectural fragments, scien¬tific instruments as well as poetry chants from the strange culture of Llhuros are featured in an exhibition at the An¬drew Dickson White Museum of Art at Cornell University. The display con¬sists of over one hundred objects, in¬cluding sculptures, paintings and fac-similes from temples, photomontages, etc. Larger pieces include temple doors, huge fragments of frescoes, and two full-scale spectacular works: a thirty¬six-foot temple wall, nine feet tall, decorated in bas-relief; and the recon-struction of the priests’ circle of effigy chairs within the Temple of Holrneek. These dramatic works are reached after the viewer has traveled a mazelike passage in which the smaller works are displayed. At various points on the way, taped sound pro¬vides introductory information, music and translaticms of ritual chants.

The perceptive viewer soon becomes uneasy as he confronts one peculiar yet somehow familiar object after another. For all the remnants of Llhuros are created by one contemporary artist, Norman Daly, who has assumed the post of Director of Llhuroscian Studies at Cornell University, where he has been a professor of painting and sculp¬ture since 1942.

Daly’s conception of an entire civili¬za(ion is realized on several levels. It is a game in which the visitor is invited to take an active part by suspending dis¬belief and embracing the fantasy evoked by Daly’s images and words. It is a spoof of the methods, jargon and pre¬tensions of archeologists, anthropol¬ogists and psychologists. It is an in¬vented context for works of consider¬able esthetic interest in their own right. And, finally, it is a disquieting reflec¬tion upon the rituals and practices of our own time.

The complex environment of sounds, painting. sculpture, crafts and writing is, according to Dal), meant to “en¬gage the gallery-goer on visual, audi¬tory and tactile levels”–all vital sup¬plernentary aids for fuller audience involvement. But the artist’s full ob¬jective will not be achieved unless the foibles, follies, superstitions. cruelties, fears and anxieties of this mythical cul¬ture are recognized as having disquiet¬ing resemblances in our own civiliza¬tion.

-Thomas W. Leavitt

“The Civilization of Llhuria” is being shown at Cornell January 25-March 5. The material from Llhuros will later be displayed at the Albany Institute of History and Art and the Afemorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester.

Photo Credit: ©1971, Cornell Chronicle, Ithaca, NY