The art world pauses this week to remember Theo Wujcik. The Tampa artist died Saturday at the age of 78 from complications relating to cancer.
A rebel in the tradition of James Dean, Wujcik refused to be defined by a single genre. But regardless of style, Wujcik's work contained two common denominators: bold, in-your-face color and the unabashed, often-irreverent use of metaphors to express poignantly insightful commentary on the human condition and the state of art in the world today.
Wujcik credited friend and GraphicStudio colleague James Rosenquist with the latter. "I wanted to do a picture of a tornado destroying the world," Wujcik explained during a Gallery Talk that marked the opening of a 10-year retrospective of his work at the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery in 2012. "But I couldn't draw. James Rosenquist suggested I work in metaphors, and while I was visiting an archaeological site in Tampa, I came across a cyclone fence that was in the form of a tornado. I did a thumbnail ballpoint sketch and that's how my chain link fence imagery was born."
Wujcik went on to use the device to reinterpret works by van Gogh, Theodore Gericault, Rodin and Robert Rauschenberg, and a number of his Chain Link works were subsequently displayed and acquired by prestigious museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh.
Following the success of Tampa Tornado in 1984, Wujcik went on to explore a number of other metaphorical constructs, including blind contour drawing (in which he drew the contours of his muse without looking at the paper, a process that served as a metaphor for all the things we don't see and of which we're unaware in our daily lives); his Asian Invasion series of super heroes; his Zhang Huan series (which prophetically foretold that just as the abstract expressionists took the center of the art world away from Paris, the Chinese are today replacing New York as the vortex of the global creative realm); and
his uncharacteristically small scale Jade series (in which Jade and bottle caps symbolize the marriage of Asian and western influences in the world of contemporary art).
To finish reading this article, please read Part Two.