MOVING BEYOND CONCEPTUALIZATION
In 1917, Marcel Duchamp purchased a urinal from the New Yourk firm “Mott Works”. Duchamp signed the object R. Mutt and submitted it to be exhibited in the Salon des Independents. Fountain was rejected by the selection committee. The outraged committee had no way of knowing that this piece would become a landmark and a source of inspiration for generations of artists to come.
At first glance, the sculptural work of Thomas Skomski falls neatly into Duchamp’s ready-made legacy. Skomski often exhibits common objects – gallon jugs, pegboard and rocks – that reveal little manipulation by the artist. However, as one contemplates the works it becomes evident that the object as ready-made is simply a superficial interpretation of the work rather than its central subject matter. Skomski’s work is in fact much more complex and deals predominately with concepts of change, reflection and perception. Skomski’s modern-day icons operate on multiple levels of symbolism which are accessible to the viewer only though study and interaction with the work.
Skomski is a Chicago-based artist who was educated at Northern Illinois University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Skomski began as a woodcarver. After working with wood for ten years, he stopped abruptly and developed an interest in light and the transformations that occur when light interacts with various materials and objects. Through students of Northern American culture, he became exposed to shamanism. This has provided the impetus for much of his current sculpture.
Preopis is a gallon jug filled with water. When light hits the water, a phalluslike from appears inside the jug. Light is a means of heightening one’s awareness of common objects. Sculpture becomes active, rather than static.
One of Skomski’s most provocative pieces is Elisabeth’s Filter. A water jug is placed in front of a cross. The water distorts the cross into an infinity sign. Water reflects and transforms the outside world this creating an interplay between the work of art and its surroundings.
Skomski’s work provokes the viewer to participate in the process of marketing art. Art is placed at odds with the viewer who must interact with the work in order to bring life to it. The viewer moves around the objectcausing the work to change and take on new meaning. He is asked to participate both mentally and physically in the creation of the work. Art is not passive, it is confrontational.
Cage Series is placed close to the ground. Pine is combined with glass and stones. The stones appear suspended in mid air. One is asked to contemplate the meaning of the arrangement and the effects of the objects on the surrounding space. Shadows used to counterbalance light.
Skomski’s work is filled with symbolism. Light and water relate to revelation and birth. Smooth stone, polished by years of contact with water, recall the passage of time. The symbolic associations are very personal and contain a sharp, emotional edge that is revealed only after careful contemplation. By contemplating the work, the viewer collaborates with the object and the artist.
Each of Skomski’s sculptures is unique and deals with individualized concerns. Steel. Copper and glass evoke very different feeling. Skomski’s is continuous and evolves from the initial concept, to the execution, to the viewer’s participation. All aspects of lift are bought to bear and all are equally valid. The artist does not insist on only one approach. In a recent statement Skomski summarized his work:
“Ideas, concepts, feeling have the peculiar ability of being able to flip into their opposites (reality/illusion, figure/ground, impersonal/transpersonal). The basis of work lies within this interplay. I am drawn to materials which are part of everyday experience (peg board, generic glass gallons, expanded steel). Differing levels of opposites are placed back to back. Objects are both seen through. Attempting o move beyond conceptualization this simultaneouns vision proves a valuable inconvenience.”
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