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Mad, Mad World

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about elise tak, artist and curator


"At satirizing pop-celebrity culture Ms. Tak is on the mark." - Grace Glueck The New York Times, 1999


In her art the artist Elise Tak blends day-to-day reality with cinematographic fiction. She uses the imagery of film and popular culture to create a rich fictional and visionary world, while at the same time discussing contemporary, socio-political issues. For over 30 years already she has dedicated herself to the creation of an ever-growing body of work consisting of movie posters, film stills, lobby cards, studio portraits, billboards, set pictures, movie trailers and biographies, featuring the lives and careers of 10 fictional, yet ‘world famous’, movie actors. It is an intricate play between reality and fiction, between life and art, because whereas in the movies, real living actors create a false existence, in Tak's work even these actors are pure fiction.

The work is a long term project in which each new element becomes part of a multi-layered, narrative and visual architecture. Elise Tak works in both traditional and modern, digital media. In the early years of her career she made color pencil drawings on paper and paintings on canvas. In 1994 she started using a computer, creating ‘digital drawings and paintings’ (using Photoshop) and later on also work entirely created with 3D software (in programs like Cinema4D, Zbrush and Mari). Her most recent ‘characters actors’ are built with a revolutionary ‘character creation script’, the Dolly Project, developed especially for and in collaboration with Elise Tak by the Italian Renderking. From two 3D models, a universal man and a universal woman, an endless variety of anatomically correct and fully rigged virtual people can be created. For exhibitions and presentations Elise Tak’s computer works are executed as C-prints. By continually experimenting with new developments she pushes her own artistic skill to new limits.

Up to now Elise Tak has ‘given birth’ to 10 movie actors, with different ages and from different backgrounds. Their names are: Michael Okada, Thomas Kirby, Marian Xiao, Pete Banich, Marvin Dunbar, Forough Amirshahi, Jeni Wright, Roy Rebergen, Charlie Pep and Anita Carbajal. In exhibitions she presents her fictional movie actors in a variety of settings. The focus can be on one specific fictional film, like ‘The Book Assassination’ for ‘Cinema Actuel’ at Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam (1994), ‘The Mouse Museum’ at Art Basel (1996), ‘Dannie and Floyd’ at FRAC Poitou Charentes (1994) or ‘The Nose’ at Pool Art Fair New York (2013). The attention can be on only one of the fictional actors, giving him or her a personal solo show, as in ‘Michael Okada: The Man Who Loves to Hate YOU’ at gallery Ars Futura in Zürich (1995). Mostly, however, the focus is on the fictional world as a whole, like in ‘The Magnificent Eight’ at Air de Paris in Paris (1994), ‘The Celebrity Clinic’ at Gasser Grunert Gallery in New York (1999), ‘Binary Fission’ at the Annet Gelink Gallery in Amsterdam (2000) and ‘The Baby Dailies’ at De Cacaofabriek in Helmond, The Netherlands (2015).



Elise Tak was born in the Netherlands and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Since the early 1990s her work has been shown in leading galleries, museums and art institutes like Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, Frans Hals Museum/De Hallen and Gemeentemuseum Helmond (The Netherlands); Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art (USA); Musée de Luxembourg, Musée d'Art Moderne Contemporain Strasbourg, FRAC Poitou-Charentes, Le Consortium (France). Articles on her work have appeared in a.o. The New York Times, Flash Art, Der Spiegel, Art Press, ART, NRC Handelsblad, de Volkskrant and MetropolisM. In addition, Elise Tak has several large-scale public art projects to her credit, commissioned by leading institutes in the field like SKOR Foundation for Art and Public Space and Stroom Den Haag, both in The Netherlands. Her animation short ‘Suicide Notes’ was produced in collaboration with the two-time Emmy-award winning composer Patricia Lee Stotter. Elise Tak was the projection designer for the play ‘Flashback’, which ran in a New York City theater in 2007. Her series of stills illustrating Gogol's ‘The Nose’ originally was made for the short film ‘Here's What I Like... Russian Literature. And Now I'll Tell You Why’, directed by Abigail Zealy Bess and written and conceived by Amy Staats. For the 2015 spring-summer- autumn season Elise Tak worked as the program director of Issyra Gallery in Hoboken, New Jersey, for which she curated more than 5 shows. Also in 2015 her work was included in the exhibition “Magnum on Set’ in Gemeentemuseum Helmond, The Netherlands, alongside pictures of real movie stars shot on movie sets by famous Magnum photographers. In 2016 Elise Tak will be showing work in Val Sinestra, Switzerland.