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Atlantan Plans Billboard-Size Woodcut Print

From the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, 1967

 

Combining a sort of metaphysical East Asian acceptance of life with worldly Western zest is Atlanta artist Ben Smith who is working on a billboard-size woodcut print called "Laocoon."

Patterned after the late second century sculpture by Agesander of Rhodes the preliminary model for "Laocoon" measures 11 feet tall by 15 feet long and when finished will produce an edition of 10 or 15 black and white prints.

"Fine arts have a way of edging up on commercial processes," explained the 26-year-old artist, giving lithography as an example.

Ben with Laocoon Print

So why not produce a woodcut with giant dimensions?

 

"They've been doing it with billboards all the time."

Smith, who teaches at the Atlanta School of Art from which he obtained a professional certificate in 1964, said he was so influenced by the ancient sculpture, which shows a man and two sons entwined by a snake, that he decided to reinterpret the work into something of his own.

"I had the feeling 'Laocoon' was important as an art work originally," Smith said.

In translating the classical sculpture into a modern work he has deflated volume in a three-dimensional sense and re-created a feeling of magnitude by sheer size and by spacing the work evenly over three panels which are hinged together.

In his rough model of latex paint on board Smith has used the original serpent theme with three humans and added several other symbols of his own: a black sun and gear-like fins on the snake.

"The snake is a natural force," he said, "but I have added mechanical devices working with the snake."

The original theme, he felt, was man's struggle against nature, but his man-made snake machine adds another annihilating force:

"Our environment is mechanical. We made machines to conquer nature, but they're becoming part of the struggle."

"The black sun looks a little like an atom --- so we've opened up a different realm of existence. If it attacked us we'd all be gone, but it's up ________."