Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Joseph Podlesnik | Marksman Par Excellence

© Joseph Podlesnik, Self-Portrait

In the early 1980s, Joseph Podlesnik and I were both living in Milwaukee. He was a student, and I was a teacher. Out of kindness, he likes to say that I was his teacher, but I don't think I taught him much, if anything. For one thing, I was a graphic designer, a collagist who had more or less given up drawing a few years earlier. But I have always loved strong drawing, and Joe, even as an undergraduate, was an extraordinary drawing-based artist (I hesitate to say "draftsman" because that doesn't quite describe his work), admired by teachers and students alike. Now he himself is a teacher, and he teaches drawing in a way that is based on intensified seeing. I continue to be amazed by his drawings, as well as his knowledge of vision. Above, for example, is a magnificent self-portrait he did about 8 or 10 years ago, using only a ballpoint pen. What impresses me so much is that every mark is both dead-on accurate and alive. I am reminded of what Hungarian-born artist-designer Gyorgy Kepes wrote in The New Landscape in Art and Science (Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1956)—

There are two basic morphological archetypes—expression of order, coherence, discipline, stability on the one hand; expression of chaos, movement, vitality, change on the other.

It is common enough to see drawings that adhere too much to one of those polarities, while all but ignoring the other extreme. Joe Podlesnik (in his films as well as his drawings) achieves a masterful mixture of both.