Blue Heron in flight

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Shaver and Szukalski

The brilliant Glenn Bray, one of the greatest and most perceptive art collectors I know, keeper of the Szukalski Archive, is helping sponsor this show and sends this press clipping over.

at the Pasadena City College Art Gallery
Exhibition: October 9 - November 14, 2009

Reception:  Friday, October 9, 6 - 8 PM


Pasadena City College Art Gallery presents an exhibition featuring two extraordinary artists who each created work based on their singular conclusions about the lost origins of human culture: Stanislav Szukalski (1893 - 1987) and Richard S. Shaver (1907 - 1975).  The exhibit includes drawings, paintings, sculpture, original manuscripts, rare publications, studio ephemera and recorded interviews with the late artists.

Stanislav Szukalski
 was a celebrated artist in his native Poland during the 1920s and '30s, acclaimed for his detailed and elaborately symbolic sculpture that combines elements evocative of European avant-gardes and Meso-American iconography.  Tragically, much of Szukalski's life's work was destroyed or lost during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw.
Szukalski relocated to the United States in 1939.  For the last decades of his life, living in relative obscurity in the San Fernando Valley, California, he focused on his science of Zermatism, a comprehensive theory of human pre-history that he developed through an extensive body of drawings, writings and sculpture.

Richard Shaver gained fame in the post-WWII era in the United States as the author of science fiction stories (mostly published in the pulp magazine Amazing Stories) that he insisted were fundamentally true.  He told of malevolent creatures who live underground, where they manipulate contemporary humans via fantastic mind-controlling machines created eons ago by technologically superior races that have long since abandoned earth. "The Shaver Mystery," as it became known, was a phenomenon in the science fiction world for a few years, as thousands of readers stepped forward to affirm the truth of Shaver's claims.

In later years, Shaver became convinced that certain stones were actually manufactured objects containing text and imagery; these stones being a kind of book made by those advanced antediluvian races.  He produced paintings and photographs based on these "rock books," in order to reveal the true history of intelligent life on earth.

 Mantong and Protong:
 Each of these men remained fiercely loyal to his single-minded pursuit of humankind's history in the face of personal tragedy and the frustration of being ignored or dismissed by the very culture they were dedicated to illuminating.   The show takes its title from their researches: The Shaver Mystery began when Shaver published what he called an ancient alphabet that is the key to all human languages, complete with a glossary of meanings.  He called that alphabet "Mantong."   Szukalski studied ancient pictograms and petroglyphs from around the world and concluded that recurrent design motifs in pre-historic drawings comprise a universal code.  Sounds and meanings were attached to those visual symbols, and together they make up "Protong," the proto-language that Szukalski asserted is the basis of all human languages.

The exhibition is curated by Brian Tucker, director of the Pasadena City College Art Gallery, with the cooperation of Archives Szukalski, run by Szukalski's longtime friends and patrons Glenn Bray and Lena Zwalve.  Tucker has organized several exhibitions featuring Shaver's work in the past, including The Hidden World
 at the Santa Monica Museum of Art in 1994 and A Little Application of Our Much-Touted Know-How at the Guggenheim Gallery at Chapman University, 2002.  Shaver's work has also been exhibited at Christine Burgin Gallery, New York, and included in an exhibition of "outsider photography," Create and Be Recognized, that travelled to museums around the US in 2004-2006.   Szukalski's art has appeared in numerous posthumous exhibitions, including the career retrospective Struggle, at the Laguna Art Museum in 2000 and The Self-Born at Varnish Fine Art, San Francisco, in 2005. Several volumes of Szukalski's works remain in print, published by Last Gasp, San Francisco, includingStruggle: The Art of Szukalski, Inner Portraits and Behold!!! The Protong.

Mantong and Protong is presented in conjunction with the Pasadena festival of Art & Ideas, organized around the theme of "origins."  The festival runs October 23 - November 9.  (More information is available at www.artideasfestival.org). The exhibition is made possible through the support of the Pasadena Art Alliance, The Pasadena City College Foundation, and the PCC Division of Visual Arts and Media Studies.
1570 East Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91106
Recorded Gallery information: (626) 585-3285

PCC ART GALLERY HOURS: Monday through Thursday: 11 A.M. to 8 P.M; Friday, Saturday: Noon to 4 P.M. Closed Sundays and school holidays. Visitor parking is available on campus for $2.