John Buck is both a sculptor and a printmaker. He works with two interrelated bodies of work: carved wood, assemblage and bronze sculptures, and large, multicolored woodblock prints. Since beginning his collaboration with Bud Shark in 1983, Buck has explored the expressive possibilities of woodblock in more than 40 different prints.
Using a pen, a nail or his fingernail, Buck incises the wood planks that form the base and background of his prints with images and symbols drawn from the daily news, from his own sculpture and from nature. Embedded in this active visual field is a large, carved image, often a figure, but he has also depicted a jar full of fireflies, an eagle, or a subtly colored moth. The relationship between these two elements first engages the viewer in an appreciation of the beauty of the graphic quality in the print and then begins a conversation about our world and our place in it.
In “Moscow on the Seine” an unknown person in a bear costume strolls across a background of Russian political and historic figures and architectural sites. Among the images, a bare chested Putin rides a horse that tramples a man while a woman offers Putin a crown. Buck was inspired by an illustration of the Russian holiday, Maslenitsa, a celebration that dates back to the 18th century.
In “Cannonball Creek” Buck depicts an American Bison, or buffalo as it is commonly known, symbolizes wild nature and western culture. Buck’s Cannonball Creek depicts the toll taken on native peoples, the land and wildlife they depended upon. From railroads to pipelines, we see in this print a tragedy on a staggering scale motivated by unrestrained resource exploitation for commercial purposes and misguided U.S. Indian policy.
John Buck lives in Montana and Hawaii and has shown his woodcuts and sculptures widely. He created a major bronze sculpture commission for Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon. His work is in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, The Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Seattle Art Museum, The Library of Congress and many others.
A retrospective of John Buck’s graphic work titled “John Buck: Iconography” traveled on an extended national tour through 2011. A catalogue raisonne, including the 43 woodcut editions printed by Shark’s, was published in conjunction with the exhibition.
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