About Boxed Assemblage
Artist Statement by Frank TurekCommonly referred to as shadow boxes or dioramas, I prefer the term assemblage because it's a more accurate physical description and it refers to an art form rather than a folk form. Shadow boxes are generally a sentimental collection of objects cherished or thought interesting to the owner with usually no eye for composition or cultural significance of the items enclosed. Dioramas are, more technically speaking, a way of depicting a scene usually with miniature figures within a small enclosed scenery space. Many theater stage set designers will construct a dioramas as models for their set ideas. The term assemblage is not as specific as the aforementioned terms, yet it is more closely associated with describing a method of art making. And because my work is almost always constructed within the confines of a rectilinear space, or box, I refer to them as "boxed" assemblages. Artist Statement by Frank Turek
For the past fifteen years I've been working exclusively in the medium of assemblage. Originally, I was inspired by late 19th century optical devices such as kinetiscopes, heliotropes, dioramas and peep shows. These are generally considered pre-cinema devices in their relation to the development of the movies, but for me they became a method of physically bringing the viewer in close. A way to capture the viewers' gaze and attention by forcing them to come up to within inches of a piece in order to get the full effect of a piece. And so, my earliest attempts were viewing boxes lit internally to allow the viewer a peepshow view of the contents. A devoted interest in the dada and surrealists' use of collage and "found" objects gave me the ideas for the contents of these boxes. Originally I used book and magazine texts and illustrations as well as small pieces of trash found in the street. I then began collecting vintage books and magazines, game pieces, and a variety of old and worn odds and ends from flea markets which provided me an accumulation of source material. With these acquisitions my work started to develop a more open "shadow box" format where I often used cigar boxes and desk drawers as the containers of these assemblages. Parallel to the development of my artwork was the blossoming of my own philosophic thought. I was studying the modern hermeneutic thought of Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer, who felt that language was the essence of our being and through a better understanding of our relation to language we can better understand ourselves. What most intrigued me about their thought was that they emphasized that poetry rather than analytic discourse held the truths about language. Relating this to my visual art I found that I could use the misplaced and forgotten pieces of our material culture as a visual poetry to comment upon our own contemporary state of being. My assemblages provided me a method towards a visual philosophy, or in Gadamer's terms a visual hermeneutics. A sense of modern and postmodern philosophic thought has helped lead me to collage as a basis for my assemblages. I use assorted objects in my work and each has a power all its own, demanding the attention a central object deserves. But the underpinning or backdrop to these objects, and my main focus, is how the printed paper elements set up the themes and dialogue of a piece. Most if not all of the surfaces of my boxed assemblages (inside and out) are covered with collaged pages from vintage books and magazines, maps and comics, etc. The oddness of past items for me becomes a useful tool for commenting on the present day. It's removed enough so that we can sometimes laugh at it, but we also recognize it as part of our collective culture, so we listen to it with a certain reverence. Placing these images and text in my assemblages where they can resonate off of each other creates a kind of micro-theater full of humor, pathos and reflection.