Skylark (Icarus)

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Skylark IcarusArtist - Theodore Roszak
Born - 1907
Died - 1981
Origin - Poland
Year Built - 1950-51

About the Artist:  Born in Poland, Theodore Roszak emigrated to Chicago with his family in 1909. After his initial studies at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1924 and the National Academy of Design in New York in 1926, he received the Anna Louise Raymond Fellowship in 1929 and left for Europe. Roszak began to experiment with modernist styles while there. He found the industrial design and machine aesthetic of the German Bauhaus particularly intriguing. By the time he returned to New York in 1931, Roszak's work was increasingly dominated by technological and industrial themes and inspired by the belief that the machine held the promise to a utopian future.

It was not until the 1940s and the chaos of World War II that Roszak began to express disillusionment with technology. "The forms I find necessary to assert are meant to be blunt reminders of primordial strife and struggle," he wrote, "reminiscent of those brute forces that not only produced life, but in turn threatened to destroy it." The viscous yet skeletal forms of Skylark (Icarus), 1950-51, nevertheless retain a mechanistic edge, but the effect is ominous and unsettling. Skylark depicts the mythological figure of Icarus, the son of Daedalus. Icarus, after escaping from the prison of King Minos with a pair of wings Daedalus constructed for him, ignores his father's warnings and flies too close to the sun. Skylark depicts Icarus in fiery ruin, plunging into the sea after his encounter with the sun. Roszak's metaphorical remake of the myth explores the potentially destructive consequences of technological progress, an appropriate reminder in an age where both Allied and Axis bombers destroyed much of Europe and Japan. Roszak's apocalyptic vision was partly inspired by the poem "The Caged Skylark" by Gerard Manley Hopkins:

As a dare-gale skylark
scanted in a dull cage
Man's mounting spirit in his
bone-house, mean house, dwells-
That bird beyond the
remembering his free fells,
This in drudgery,
day-laboring-out life's age.

The anxiety over humanity's self-destructive impulses found form in Skylark; as Joan Marter has argued, the work views "man as captive within the bonds of civilization and reduced to the ashes of his own bones."