Permanence and Transience: The Sculpture
of Thomas Skomski

The Modernist ideals of architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe that echo throughout the refined minimalism of the Elmhurst Art museum initiate a unique dialogue with the distinctly Postmodern aesthetic of sculptor Thomas Skomski. If the museumís elegant skeletal membrane of steel and glass presents an unchallenged singular vision of harmony through material and form, Skomskiís sculptures of similar materials offer instead a plurality of associations that fill the quest for spiritual balance with contradictions and questions. Creating a subtly choreographed installation of a few works, Skomski transforms the black-floored gallery into an environment of permanence and transience that define the human condition.

Those viewers familiar with Skomskiís more sensorially aggressive recent installations may be surprised with the severity of the artistís restraint in this exhibition. Choosing to reprise a small group of rarely exhibited sculptures from the early Ď80ís and mid-90ís, he has with great deliberation created a distilled environment of tenuous spatial, physical, and psychological calibrations that are silently revealed through the changing points of view characterized by the traditional ambulatory garden. Each individual work displays Skomskiís uncanny ability to take familiar objects and simple forms and manipulate them in a way that enables them to solicit unexpected and evocative responses.

Yet, the discipline he displays here is a fluid extension of his mature aesthetic philosophy that locates passionate metaphors for human dilemmas in the paradoxes that result from his obsessive investigations of the limits of his materials. Like other Postmodern artists, Skomski sees the failings of the Modernist lexicon and the flawed purity of its utopian goals and structures as something not to rebel against, but to work in concert with. In the process, he creates an unnerving language of formal and conceptual disruptions and interventions that embrace our inability for absolute comprehension and control f our world.

Light as a symbol and an active formal element of sculpture has always been and continues to be paramount to the transformative quality of Skomskiís work, as revealed through his understated, but crucial, addition of scrim banners that soften the museumís ambient light. Light animates the surrogate bodies of water-filled jugs in Evanesce and Understandable. However, with the gesture of a cast glass cup in a reinterpretation of his 1994 piece, Mine Not Mine, Skomski appears to have given physical form to light itself. Resting in the bottom of a long and narrow, elegantly symmetrical steel cage dramatically suspended 21 feet from a ceiling truss and hovering 3 feet above the gallery floor, the curved form of the solid glass cup bends and refracts the space around it, distorting from different vantage points both the opposites of the black tone of the gallery floor and the white hue of the gallery walls. An ephemeral symbol of transformation, the glass is both solid and void, mass and air, appearing both there and not there, its presence defined by its implied absence and heightened by the cages preventing our grasping it. In Skomskiís works what one sees is the physical manifestation of shifting realities and altered states of, ultimately, ourselves.

Our bodies are resilient, yet fragile, containers that postpone our impending disintegration through delicate checks and balances. Skomski recognizes the inevitability of our condition and takes advantage of our vulnerability by penetrating our normal awareness with a considerable level of discomfort. He continually tests our tolerance for anxiety by balancing our precarious physical existence and tenuous perceptual and intellectual assumptions against the resiliency of our spiritual inquiries.