An Idea Out of Time
In 1919 an envelope arrived at the door of Albert Einstein. The
theories contained in this envelope were so advanced even Einstein
couldn’t understand their implications. After two years of
contemplation he finally sent word to Theodor Kaluza, the unknown
German mathematician whose theory had expanded Einstein’s
own work on Relativity, that there were indeed rational possibilities
to the idea that electro-magnetism and gravity could be united,
and that there might be a fifth dimension.
As revolutionary as these ideas were, it was nearly fifty years
before science and mathematics caught up to them and were able to
utilize these ideas as the foundations of “string theory.”4
It might be an exaggeration to say that the ideas of “Critical
Realism” are of the same magnitude as a fifth dimension, but
there is a parallel to the fact that these ideas have taken thirty
years to be assimilated and expounded for their relevance. During
this time society’s ability to “see” has evolved.
The skepticism of a “critical” attitude has become
a popular branch of philosophy: hermeneutics. The logic of skeptical
irony is clear; decay is the material for the birth of the new.
History is a tool to help one move into the future. Chaos is merely
another type of order.
The techniques and materials of Petrick’s work are various
and complex including; painting, drawing, printmaking, book art,
collage, sculpture, assemblage, and computer altered photography.
He may incorporate drawing over painting and collage, or assemblage
with photography and printing. This shifting of modalities within
an individual work, from planar to linear, from realistic, to expressionistic,
to Gothic, somehow coalesces into a cogent image that breaks all
the rules for uniformity of intent.
Petrick is a figurative artist who depicts the human condition in
all its frailties, naked grotesquerie and sexiness. Hands and feet
take on huge proportions, as if to evince their importance as means
of sensual experience and transport. Boots, shoes and roller-blades
are recurring motifs that take on a fetishistic interest.
The “Glass House” series of sculptures are a recent
development on a subject that Petrick has employed since the beginning
of his A in a region between display case and reliquaries.
Petrick has developed a practice that involves a type of counter
intuitive instinct: the skeptical questioning of accepted ideas
or wisdom; and ability to analyze and deconstruct images and visual
information using aspects of science as criteria; realizing the
“reality” of the image; making pragmatic use of methods
that solve problems, rather than a blind allegiance to current dogma;
the rejection of fashions and trends in the pursuit of more timeless
solutions; and the realization that history is no longer linear
These are some of the factors that have encouraged Petrick to
pursue the discovery of a new dimension of content, a dimension
that extends deep within the individual.
(This essay is an excerpt from “Vision Quest in a House
of Mirrors,” by James Kalm, Deep Action: Wolfgang Petrick
and Master Students. Heidelberg: Kehrer Verlag, 2005, 25-67.)