Pittsburgh is blessed with several extraordinary architects who are also artists--Syl Damianos, Tasso Katselas, David Lewis for example--but when they turn to projecting their ideas in the visual arts, they tend to overlook architect's basic work materials: graphite, transfer type, photo silkscreen, pencil marks. The drawings and sculptures of New York based artists Andrew Topoloski will serve as a meaningful introduction to them or to anyone for that matter who admires the skills, "the touch," necessary in developing these tools into a new visual language.
Topolski's elegant works on paper are systems employing these elements both as abstract visual surfaces and as intellectual propositions. Instead of systems for an architectural project, however, his plotted graphic progressions move beyond representation. Topolski stuttered as a child. He began to draw as an expressive outlet. His vocabulary is expressive by the way the marks of graphite, the precision lines, and the mixed media tidbits of tactype numbers and letters are deployed on the paper--usually vellum--or, in his sculpture, by the way the "scientific" three dimensional objects--plum lines, glass discs, thermometers--are arranged in space.
What are the ideas that interest this artist and how does he communicate them to the viewer?
His control of straight line creating multiple degrees of hardness/softness contrasts with the rich almost greasy liquidity achieved by his application of powered graphite. "The seeming exactness of marks resembling diagrams, charts, blueprints--apparently technical and machine like--come together to create an elegant but enigmatic surface." Similarly, in the sculpture the steel hardened tools of measurement and attendant hardware are softened by inclusion of an umbrella handle or cane, the sculptural objects occasionally reverberating with similar shapes in the companion drawings.
Topolski is one of a fast-disappearing species: a voracious reader. "I don not use a text to visualize [it], instead it is a springboard, something that triggers something in my mind." Reflecting Zen philosophy as well as the randomness theory employed by John Cage, Topolski explores dualities the way J.S. Back explored the fugal form. Tools of precision are juxtaposed to tools of humanity for those of us who are infirm or vulnerable. Interestingly, the progressions of some of his drawings have been transformed into musical notation by the artist and his compositions played before opening night audiences at his Berlin, Tokyo and Brooklyn Museum exhibitions.
Topolski mediates between the scientific and humanist words pointing out similarities: "I have become intrigued by the peculiar aesthetics of missile sites within their natural settings. My concern is to assimilate the strengths that exist in these structures and rearrange them visually to a 'disarmed state.' His most recent work reflects 'the relationship between cathedral floor plans and diagrammatic illustrations of missiles.'"
To me, the precision and clarity of Topolski's ethereal visual language is both mysterious and exciting, reminding me of an exhibition I saw in Milan some years ago of scientific drawings from the Queen of England's collection by Leonardo da Vinci. Apparently ordered surfaces in a code with a meaning I couldn't quite decipher made me want to see more, to become better at seeing. Perhaps chaos lies just beyond these exquisite surfaces. Is our scientific mastery of the universe illusionary?