In This Case: An American Puzzle by Lloyd G. Schermer
September 23, 2008
What do Mickey Mouse, a lobster, and a football player all have in common? Give up? They can all be found in Lloyd G. Schermer’s An American Puzzle! The sculpture hangs in the southwest corner of the Luce Center for American Art, and it contains a lot of surprises so you should look carefully. From far away, it resembles a two-dimensional artwork—a print or painting. As you move closer, you’ll find that the piece is actually composed of antique printing type, advertising plates, and engravings created for mastheads.
Schermer worked for a newspaper in Missoula, Montana and in 1964 when the publication updated its manufacturing methods to offset lithography (which uses photography to transfer images to the paper), he saved many of the old type pieces, hoping he'd eventually find another use for them. Some type pieces are two hundred years old. Over the years, Schermer has collected enough type and engravings to fill over 900 drawers in his studio. On choosing pieces for An American Puzzle, Schermer says, "When I started the sculpture, I went back and searched for those I thought would be most meaningful for the Smithsonian... the unique keeper not only of our country's heritage. but that to which we aspire, too."
Despite Schermer’s efforts to remove the ink from the plates with a strong solvent, some colors have seeped into the wood. Though faded, they call the viewer’s attention to different parts of the piece through the highlighting of individual plates surrounded by the naturally colored metal ones. The ink stains, and the plates themselves, are physical evidence of an outdated printing method replaced by the faster and cheaper methods developed through new technologies. It’s fun, too, to note the old-fashioned appearance of the plates: Mickey Mouse looks younger, if that’s possible, and the uniform of the football player seems to be right out of the 1920s. The piece belongs in a museum as a piece of art and a piece of history.
See if you can find Mickey, the lobster, and the football player on your next trip to the Luce Center. Then see what else Lloyd Schermer has hidden in this puzzle.
An American Puzzle by Lloyd G. Schermer is really a very interesting work of art. Congratulations to its creator.
Posted by: Subhash Parihar | Sep 24, 2008
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