J GO owner Olson’s new works inspired by the Antikythera mechanism
Ryan Summerlin February 19, 2013
Sculptor Curtis Olson, who is co-owner of the J GO Gallery, thinks of himself a science geek.
He is fascinated by knowledge, and is in love with the idea that a vast amount of knowledge has been lost over time.
"I like hearing about those ancient objects that we can look at, but have no concept of what they truly are or what their purpose and meaning may be," Olson said during an interview with The Park Record. "One example is all those books that were burned with the library in Alexandria, Egypt. Those books were essentially the entire written knowledge of man at the time, and it’s boggling to think about what we lost there.
Another item is the Antikythera mechanism, which was recovered from a shipwreck off the Greek Island, Antikythera, in 1901.
"It’s significance and complexity was not understood for another 100 years, and was found to be an analog celestial computer built around 87 B.C. and pre-dating anything then known to be comparable by over 600 years," Olson said. "The object spurred on all kinds of thought processes in me about creating objects that look as if they have a purpose and may contain something important, but we don’t know how to crack them."
That’s the inspiration behind Olson’s new exhibit "Antikythera: Knowledge Objects," that is now in display at the J GO Gallery, 408 Main St. On Friday, Feb. 22, the gallery will host a free artist reception with Olson.
The Antikythera is one of those objects that seems out of place in a historical timeline," Olson said. "It doesn’t fit into what scientists, anthropologists and archaeologists have considered the ‘March of History.’"
During Olson’s career as an artist, he has strived to create more than just a picture, and, instead, create objects that have weights to them.
He says, his 16 wall pieces and free-standing works that are part of the new exhibit is another way to do that.
"They have kind of sprung my fascination about alien or ancient technology and archaeology," he said.
The new works also mark a departure in subject matter for Olson.
"For the past 10 to 12 years, I have been doing art that was based on the Western landscape, even though the art was nontraditional and used abstract and realism," he said. "As I have been developing these for a couple of years, I have been going with the concept of what we know as knowledge objects and taking them to another level.
"I like the thought of having universal truths in my work, so when people look at something I’ve done, they know I have something to say," he said.
Still, Olson works with the same materials that he has in the past.
"I do use a lot plaster-and-cement mix for the texture," he said. "And I’m still using power tools to do a lot of sanding."
The new works range in size from one to five feet tall.
"These works are quite heavy and it was quite an effort to not only make them, but also transport them and hang them," he said.
The show is the first time any of these works have been on display in Park City, and that means a lot to Olson.
"It’s the nature of any artist to become somewhat of a hermit when creating new art," he said. "I work with a lot of pieces at once and take a lot of hours and hours working on just one thing. You have work pretty solitary to produce hand-made work, so to be able to show it and get feedback and people’s responses is everything to me. That’s what it’s all about."
While the artist does enjoy the process of making the sculptures, he loves hearing what people have to say.
"Do they like it or do they hate it?" he said. "Do they understand or not understand it? Does it speak to them in ways that I have never thought of?
"Sure, I do develop my own concepts to produce the works, but once they are out there for all to see, I think whatever I thought about when making them becomes meaningless," he said. "It becomes all about what others think about the pieces that is most important to me."
That’s something Olson has carried with him from the time he was a child when he first saw a work called "The Running Fence," a 24-mile fabric work by Bulgarian artist Christo.
"It ran from the inland valley of Marin and Sonoma counties to the Pacific Ocean," Olson said. "We drove out there. I remember driving and occasionally stopping to get out and look at the work.
"I was just a kid, about 10 years old, but it blew my mind," he said. "Just seeing all the people and how much they were into it changed my whole perception about what art was and how it could touch people."
That experience was so profound to Olson that he decided he wanted to create art that would amaze and bring joy to people’s lives.
"I carried that idea into my career as an architecture and pushed the envelope of the project to make it more artful, and I feel these new works are doing that as well," he said.
J GO Gallery, 408 Main St., will host an artist reception for sculptor Curtis Olson’s "Antikythera: Knowledge Objects," on Friday, Feb. 22, from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit http://www.jgogallery.com/shows/knowledge-objects-curtis-olson.html .