Edgy and inspiring, Andrew Kozlowski’s art is uniquely influenced by his fascination with storytelling, science-fiction, cultural remnants and comic books.
“10,000 years is double the length of written human history. It seems like an impossible amount of time to an individual, but also no time at all in the long line of history,” says Kozlowski, assistant professor in UNF’s Department of Art & Design, “I use it as a reminder that while our experiences may remain brief, our impact may be far-reaching.”
A colorful celebration of human narrative married with a post-apocalyptic message of perseverance and ingenuity, Kozlowski’s exhibit opens with a reception and artist’s talk at Cathedral Arts Project’s Heather Moore Community Gallery on Thursday, Oct. 25.
The show’s title—10,000 Years: Intimate Moments & Grand Disasters—refers to a scenario in which a group of scientists, artists, designers and thinkers must design a warning system for a nuclear waste site. How can they make something that will last—and remain comprehensible—for 10,000 years? “To me, it was a really intriguing problem. We’ve made an issue and we want to take care of it because we’re good people, but we honestly don’t have a great sense of time,” Kozlowski explains, “10,000 years seems like forever and at the same time, it’s nothing.”
“Through my works I carve a wide path of concerns, calling to question those objects that ultimately define our cultures and our histories. The items depicted are stand-ins for daily activities, relics from travels, debris found underfoot, and representations of news stories which briefly populated my social media news feeds,” the artist explains, “They are reminders the past is equal parts remembered and forgotten, and that monuments and museums are perhaps better viewed as representations of their makers than as static moments of history.”
“For me, the material changes the kind of story. Small things are more intimate moments in a story and large things are bigger group actions or broader things that are going on,” Kozlowski says.
His exhibit features an array of artifacts, each with a unique story to decipher, yet all are interconnected. Future Blueprints has a narrative of disaster survivors who rebuild out of destruction. The display features plans for imaginary structures and new habitats. Disasterware presents handmade ceramic works fashioned by the artist. “I made them thinking, ‘If you were in some sort of post-apocalypse, at some point you’d want to sit down and eat. Let’s make some dinnerware, let’s make some bowls, mugs, something like that.’ It seems like a logical extension of what a character might do in that situation.”
Comic books served as an impetus into the world of art and inspired Kozlowski to travel into the city for college art classes while still in high school. There, he encountered a great mentor: Philadelphia-based artist and teacher Mark Shetabi. Kozlowski’s desire to become an artist and a teacher was born. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking from Tyler School of Art at Temple University, followed by an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Virginia Commonwealth University. He served as an assistant professor at Auburn University before relocating to Jacksonville in 2017. Kozlowski is an expert printmaker whose work has appeared in exhibits worldwide.
The artist’s boyhood love for comic books and graphic narratives has never abated and continues to influence his creative style. “I think some of the things I’m still attracted to are telling stories and using strong graphic language,” he explains. “I use a drawing style that is kind of abstracted and cartoonish.”
Working at the Philadelphia Museum of Art as a Preparator for the Prints, Drawings & Photographs Department kindled a deep respect for artifacts and the stories behind them. “I’ve become fascinated with the idea of how objects get imbued with both symbolism and stories,” the artist explains. “We have these items in museums that have been passed down through the years and give us stories and a picture of what a culture, place or person is like, but at the same time, that history changes based on how our history develops. When we go back and look at objects and how they’re collected, that history changes based on new findings. It changes based on attitude. It changes based on how the world works now.” 10,000 Years highlights the imprecise nature of recording, presenting and retelling history.
Kozlowski hopes his art will inspire big conversations among guests of all ages. “Kids seem to like my work because it’s weird and Seussian,” he says with a laugh. “It’s good to because they can recognize things. There will be something like a soda can or broken board or a Roman marble bust I’ve recreated as a drawing. What’s great about kids is their imagination hasn’t been leeched out yet. They go and see these things and they start to form connections. Kids understand a lot more than we give them credit for at times.”
At face value, it’s easy to generalize 10,000 Years as a statement about ecology and environmentalism. Yet it’s truly a testament to human ingenuity and a celebration of creativity. Recycling refuse to create something new is a powerful theme in Kozlowski’s work. Part of his exhibit consists of wheat-pasted and laser cut screen-prints. At the end of the show, they’ll be taken down and reimagined.
Kozlowski hosted a papermaking workshop for all ages after his Iowa State University exhibit and he would like to offer a similar workshop in Jacksonville. “We’re going to take this down, but we’re not going to throw it out. We’re going to recycle it and turn it into something new,” he says. “I think that idea really impacts kids in a way that they can get behind. They get excited. They learn a new skill. I like how the work can have a new life that goes on and on. What I like about papermaking and printmaking is that it’s a shared thing. It’s nice to do something with someone else and learn something and use your hands, to talk and chat and share experiences.”
Kozlowski is thrilled to partner with Cathedral Arts Project, which works diligently to provide underserved children access to visual and performing arts.
The amiable artist encourages Northeast Floridians to come out to the exhibit’s opening talk and learn more about his vision. Jacksonville’s collector-of-cultures Andrew Kozlowski masterfully marries graphic narrative, printmaking, science-fiction and his passion for comics in this unique journey. Colorful and creative, thought-provoking and imaginative, 10,000 Years is the must-see exhibit of late 2018.