“Dark Commander: The Art of John Scott” opened in the Faulconer Gallery Friday, Oct. 10, with a conversation with the artist and Faulconer Gallery curator Daniel Strong. It runs through Dec. 14, 2014.
This retrospective is the first exhibition in the United States for Scott, who received the prestigious Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts, Canada's highest arts honor, in 2000.
The exhibition reveals Scott's lifelong fascination with machines as it evolved from his working-class roots in Windsor, Ontario, just across the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit, through an era that has seen both rapid technological innovation and almost continuous high-tech warfare.
For 40 years, Scott has remained consistent and eerily prescient in raw-edged drawings and found-object installations that plot a vector from the optimism of NASA to the voyeurism of the NSA. "If you look at his work from the 1980s and ’90s, much of it could be made next year," Strong says.
Scott’s hard-edged work is influenced by artists as diverse as the Spaniard Francisco Goya (1746-1828) and the German Expressionists of the early 20th century. Goya and German Expressionists are well represented in the Grinnell College Art Collection. One of the icons of Scott's work, the inspiration for the exhibition's title, is the "Dark Commander," an oversized and imperious Napoleonic figure that recurs in his work along side anxiety-driven bunny-men, jet fighters and hybridized motorcycles, one of which has been borrowed from Scott's hometown museum, the Art Gallery of Windsor.
The exhibition coincides with a campus-wide focus on the centenary of World War I, "A Century of War: 1914 and Beyond," sponsored by the College's Center for the Humanities.
“Dark Commander: The Art of John Scott” is open through Dec. 14. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and admission is free.