Raven Wolf Gallery
An Online Gallery of Photography & Art
Ross Zirkle (1955 - 2007)
In the past, mankind worshiped gods of nature. Today our society worships science-driven technological progress. In my prints and drawings I raise questions about the human consequences of living in such a mechanized culture. Our identity is supported, indeed largely constructed, by elaborate language systems of printed images and texts. Printing has remained the main delivery system for information in today’s digital revolution just as it was in the time of Gutenberg. The notion of humanity’s transitory nature and true vulnerability in today’s technologically saturated culture raises troubling questions for me. I juxtapose our vulnerability, our incertitude, through hand-rendered nude figure drawings which I then layer and juxtapose to today’s modern language systems such as mathematics, graphing, and mapping systems which are designed to promote certainty. The one language system embodies seeds of grief for a loss and ultimately death whereas the other proposes eternity like the geometrical definition of a line running to infinity. I contrast the symbols of ancient myths, which once reassured us, to the modern language of technology as in the lithograph.
To deliver this human contextual dilemma in a printed format is both ironic and appropriate. It is ironic because as a printmaker I actually avail myself of the very printing matrix of which I am critical -- a conceptual contradiction, yet a physical fact. My prints pose questions about language systems for viewers; they must consider what their preferences are and the reasons for their preferences. Lately I have returned to printing on the old lithographic stones once used strictly for commercial printing of advertisements and labels a century ago. Now I use these same stones, not for commercial ends, but for a different purpose, to print mythic figures, to exploit the organic shapes of the primeval stones’ edges themselves. I layer language system upon language system. Printmaking for me is closer to biological than mechanical reproduction because, unlike most of today’s mechanical language systems, it embodies the humanity of the artist. In the process of printing, I actually find myself, as with drawing, inside the process as I change color ideas, for instance, or add printing matrixes or other elements. In other words the delivery system of printmaking incorporates the artist-printer’s creativity in the message, which is why it is such an effective media to contemplate enduring human truths. If poets are correct that language is the main carrier of content in our time, then the language we put our faith in is telling. Printed language is merely a tool to be manipulated by the hands and minds of those who utilize it – so it is always a double-edged sword.