Archive for Thursday, February 22, 1990


February 22, 1990


One of Jon Swindell's black-and-white dream-drawings shows a statue of Venus with a fighter jet flying nearby. Another presents dirigibles moored to towers standing above empty, gray landscapes.

"I don't know that the dirigibles have any particular meaning," said Swindell, a Kansas University professor whose most recent work is on view at the Lawrence Arts Center. "They're images out of our century. The entire series is very much involved with the idea of time. These are pieces or images that aren't in our time but in the past, the present or the future."

Swindell's show, which runs through March 15, includes about a dozen graphite drawings and six tall sculptures, many mixing classical images with modern design elements.

Swindell, a KU design teacher since 1986, has won several prizes for his work, including 1989 fellowships from the Mid-America Arts Alliance and the Kansas Arts Commission. He holds degrees from the Columbus, Ohio, College of Art and Design and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

SWINDELL BRINGS his knowledge of 20th century design to his work, especially the design of machines and sleek art-deco buildings. He said he mixes and matches these elements, especially the vertical elements, through free association.

For example, his 1990 drawings series on one wall show gray and white streaks swirling around statues, columns and an old Cadillac with tail fins. He framed these drawings in white arches, like windows into slices of time.

"They're a kind of pictoral essay, a collection of images," he said. "They're landscapes of the mind."

The four dominant pieces of his exhibit, 8-foot-tall white blocks with designs on the top, loom over the viewer like mini-skyscrapers. Swindell said he wants to use the idea of the skyscraper as an image or icon and bring it into a gallery.

"I'M INTERESTED in how objects meet the sky," Swindell said. "I use the gallery floor as a landscape."

The graphite drawings and the sculptures are really part of the same installation it's easy to find echoes of the sculptures within the drawings. For example, one of the tall sculptures shows a tiny dirigible flying through an arch. Inside the arch, the viewer sees two miniature psychedelic posters for late '60s rock groups. The posters, the dirigible and the classical structure all come from different design eras.

Although both the sculptures and the drawings show Swindell's concerns with time and design, the different media pose different challenges for the artist.

"The drawings come along quickly in groups, usually in one brief sitting," he said. "The sculptures take more time. They require thinking through the ideas. It's a much more fluid process."

Swindell's next project will be another set of four tall sculptures. But along with mixing design elements from different eras, he'll also be bringing in elements of nature. Already, one of the four sculptures in the current exhibit has a twig springing from the top.

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