Liliana Porter’s toy stories

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Not since Pampas-fed steak has an Argentine import generated this much buzz in San Francisco. That’s right: Liliana Porter is returning to Hosfelt Gallery, and she’s bringing her toys.

Playtime is apparently over, and now Porter’s dolls are getting down to serious business – in photos and sculptures, they’re holding protests, taking tiny sledgehammers to their own pedestals, and chipping away at the gallery walls. Sure, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s implusive “decisive moments” featuring improbably picturesque Parisians were charming, but Porter’s staged scenarios starring wind-up penguins with a limp and chipped Mao figurines are deliberate provocations.

“I do not use in my work toys with which I have not played before,” Porter declares in Artforum – and it shows. Her toy scenes hint at the kind of elaborate backstories invented by kids after hours of play uninterrupted by adults or reality, until their toys start to wear out.

If something about Porter’s toy stories strike you as oddly familiar, you’re right: they were inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland … and who knows what books this show may inspire? Photo buffs, obsessive eBay vintage toy collectors (you know who you are), and anyone else who enjoys childlike wonder with a subversive streak: you tell us. (Or better yet, show us).

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