During the drive west from Orlando, my guess was that last year's outstanding "Picasso/Dalí: Dalí/Picasso" exhibition would prove tough to beat.
The current exhibition "Escher At The Dali" upended my expectations with another showstopping assemblage of amazing works by a world renowned artist.
According to the museum's press release, the exhibition includes 135 works by the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher.
I quickly lost count and lost myself exploring the dozens of woodcuts, prints, drawings and other works on loan from the Herakleidon Museum in Athens, Greece.
Greatest hits, in no particular order, include:
-- Book illustrations created during Escher's early-career "hungry" days spent starving for paid assignments
-- Portraits of family and friends including his wife
-- Nautical-themed three-dimensional (pentagon-shaped) candy tins featuring shells and starfish
-- The 13.5-foot panoramic design "Metamorphosis III" showcasing Escher's mastery of tessellations (in brilliant color for this piece)
-- Additional color works including the vivid "Other World" and "Horseman" both from the mid-1940s.
My favorites: "Puddle" featuring a forest reflected in the wet tracks of car/bike tires with shoe prints (made me wonder the extent to which artist R. Crumb found inspiration from Escher) and the lithograph "Three Worlds" featuring a swimming fish beneath a leaf-covered surface.
Of course, the best-known Eschers featuring impossible structures, waterfalls, ladders and people about the illustrations are great fun.
Best surprise was the whimsical look inside the "Print Gallery" featuring museum visitors studying a row of framed mini-Eschers.
Gazing upon each work, I marveled at the painstaking detail and countless hours that must have gone into creating each image. Escher, it seems, was an extremely patient artist and perfectionist.
Though I found no direct Olympic connections in his work, future organizers of a Cultural Olympiad should take notice of Escher's mastery.
"Escher At The Dali" remains on view through Jan. 3, 2016, and is indeed worth a special trip to St. Pete.
Images via MCEscher.com