Initially recognized for strong narrative, neo-primitive wood sculpture in the 1970s, John Buck has subsequently made printmaking an integral part of his art. As so often happens, once a material enters the artist’s studio it can find itself morphing from object to vehicle. So it’s no surprise that woodblock printing has since become Buck’s medium of choice. As a graphic agent, woodblock printing is locked in a pitched battle with drypoint etching for supremacy of linear grit. In Buck’s hands, it is also a masterful vehicle for social and political discourse.
An advantageous and salient feature of printmaking is layering, and Buck draws upon earlier images, embedding them into new narratives with fresh emotional palettes. A consistent motif is the Mason jar, placed front and center, holding objects such as a cow’s skull or a sailing vessel, like specimens framed as botanical classifications. Buck’s work suggests Audubon’s prints gone hyperthyroid in dark, Bosch-ian depictions of Las Vegas addictions rising from the sea of sand or European conquistadores literally ripping the robes off Aztec kings. Buck gives us meditations on hard truths in the guise of beautifully crafted, strong, yet materially delicate works on paper.