Exhibits › Flummoxed: Prints drawn from a bewildering world

Various online dictionaries define “flummoxed” as being bewildered and perplexed to the point where one is speechless and at a loss for words.

Flummoxed was the best word that I could find to describe my experience in a digitized world where no piece of information is ever forgotten; every possible image and sound from anything and everywhere has been recorded and made instantly downloadable; and every opinion, theory, grievance, or lie is available for worldwide perusal and our immediate comment.

The last 100 years have been marked by increasing information overload; endless options and possibilities; technical progress and moral ambiguity; alarming global situations over which we have no personal control; and spasms of political paralysis that makes large-scale democratic problem-solving a sad joke.

Here is a random recitation of what seems to flummox me the most. I suspect that you can greatly expand the following litany of world-changing events:

Assassinations of JFK, MLK, RFK
Cuban missile crisis
Global warming
Global sea level rise
Global financial collapse of 2008
Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan Wars
Impeachment of Nixon
Fukushima nuclear meltdown
BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill
Hubble telescope
Electron microscope
Collapse of USSR
Rise of China
Giant plastic garbage gyre in Pacific
North Korea
Man on the moon
Stem cell research
Higgs boson particle
Big data

This is hardly the first time in Homo sapiens’ roughly 200,000-year history that human beings have been flummoxed. But for me, the most emotionally resonant example of societal and personal chaos and uncertainty was the ill-fated, democratic Weimar Republic of Germany that lasted from 1919 to 1933.

This time and place left virtually every German in a state of frightening financial distress or abject poverty. The political turmoil was often punctuated by extremist violence—and the rise of
Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Ironically, it was also a period of great scientific and artistic achievement.

Perhaps the most graphic revelations of these turbulent times were the German expressionist woodblock prints. They catch the angst, alarm, and raw emotion of the human situation in extremis.

I became acquainted with these prints as a teenager in the1960s. At the time, Chicago was a safe haven for aging German refugee artists and designers who managed to escape pre-WWII Europe. These black and white images, sometimes embellished with a few bold colors, mesmerized me.

The jagged and intricate black shapes transcended culture and history. They still do today.

This folio is an homage to these early 20th century avant-garde German print makers. You can view an impressive online gallery of relevant prints by simply googling “German Expressionistic Prints Images.”

As an artist of the new millennium, I used readily available, consumergrade digital hardware and software in my expressionistic image making. Mark Twain said that “history does not repeat itself but it does rhyme.” This is also true of art. I hope that my “Flummoxed” prints will remind you that confusion and discontinuity are an inherent part of the creative poetry of progress.

Buy the Book

Prints drawn from a bewildering world

By Bob Barancik

Softcover: $26.79

Available on Blurb.com


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