Nick Skowron–a candidate for an MFA in printmaking at Kent State University–recently had a show at Black Balloon Editions in Cleveland, Ohio.
The works show Skowron’s background in architectural studies, which reveals itself through processes particular to printmaking and through simple drawing. The contrast between printmaking, drawing, and even painting is what interests me so much about these works, because it is through these formal differences that the material of the work becomes known.
The artistic limits of architectural blueprints are obvious in their coterminous juxtaposition with more expressive details in colorful smears and formal distortions such as the paper of the work itself ripped off in layers. But the blueprints also excel in their characteristics, such as planning, and geometric precision. Even for the most mundane applications, architectural planning has an essence of hope to it. This essence seems most apparent when a pristine plane hovers above a meadow scattered with detritus.
Skowron’s prints not only resist duplication due to their modifications–though duplication would be theoretically possible–, but also acknowledge the limitations of consciousness in duplication of prints and blueprints. A building can be described well, in one sense, by a blueprint–lengths measured right down to the level of millimeters. But the history of the building, or its place in the world of society, is lost. Skowron’s prints show us multi-dimensional histories of imagined structures through his juxtaposition of forms. The mere facts presented to us by blueprints–or other potential visual forms for documentation, such as photography–are insufficient, but pretend to be sufficient. The interpreted history in Skowron’s work argues against such reductionism. While reading an essay by Siegfried Kracauer entitled “Photography” in his book The Mass Ornament, I was reminded of these prints, and immediately sent this excerpt to Skowron:
In order for history to present itself, the mere surface coherence offered by photography must be destroyed. For in the artwork the meaning of the object takes on a spatial appearance, whereas in photography the spatial appearance of an object is its meaning. […] The artwork, too, disintegrates over time; but its meaning arises out of its crumbled elements, whereas photography merely stockpiles the elements.
The crumbled elements in Skowron’s pieces disrupt the clean sheen of the blueprints, despite how beautiful those promises might be. Or in the words of Kracauer: the works in their entirety remember history, while the blueprints left to themselves evoke only historicism (the blind accumulation of facts). The future cannot delude itself into thinking that the past did not exist. The removal of such lines, however, seems unnecessary too. That is what balances the pieces: they are riddled with tragedy and hope just as we are.