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  • “€œSlope,”€ a sculpture by Angelo State University art Professor John Vinklarek, is on display with other selecte...
    “€œSlope,”€ a sculpture by Angelo State University art Professor John Vinklarek, is on display with other selected works from the 2015 Salmon Sculpture Competition.
    Photo by Danny Meyer

Professor’s Art Selected in Sculpture Competition

February 01, 2016

ASU art students taking Professor John Vinklarek’s classes have the distinct advantage of learning from a nationally recognized sculptor.

Most recently, Vinklarek was the only local contestant chosen as an “accepted artist” for the fourth annual Richard and Pam Salmon Sculpture Competition hosted by the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts (SAMFA). Selected for the 2015 competition for his sculpture “Slope,” he was also named an accepted artist in 2013 for his cast metal work titled “Shaft.”



“Ours is a national sculpture competition,” said Howard Taylor, SAMFA director, “and the fact that John’s work was chosen twice in a national competition is an endorsement of the work he does. It’s a very selective process.”

Vinklarek’s 2015 entry, “Slope,” is a 7-foot-tall cascading column of polyurethane foam dyed sherbet colors.

Vinklarek's “Slope” is on display in the Sunken Garden on S. Abe Street.Vinklarek's “Slope” is on display in the Sunken Garden on S. Abe Street.“This piece in the SAMFA exhibit is considerably different from what I usually do,” he said. “The foam wants to flatten out. To get it to pile like that was a challenge. It’s really nasty, too. It’s like putting your hand on super glue. I experimented with pigments as well.”

For Vinklarek, a West Texas native who joined the ASU faculty in 1977, entering the SAMFA competition and other juried contests is about exploring new directions in technique, as well as demonstrating as a university faculty member his professional growth. In 2015 alone, his works were selected for exhibit in 10 juried shows, from Midland to New Jersey.

Working most often with paper, Vinklarek creates sculptures that appear to be rusty metal machines with obscure purposes.

“My work with fake machines or ruined machines is pointing to technology rotting away,” he said. “It’s really a romantic ruin, a comment on technology and the concept of progress. Is it real? Is this progress? It questions even the idea of progress itself.”

The underlying philosophy that inspires Vinklarek’s work is pataphysics, invented by French writer Alfred Jarry at the dawn of the 20th century.

“My work with fake machines or ruined machines is pointing to technology rotting away. It’s really a romantic ruin, a comment on technology and the concept of progress. Is it real? Is this progress? It questions even the idea of progress itself.”

John Vinklarek

“Pataphysics is a science that is beyond metaphysics, just the way that metaphysics is beyond physics,” Vinklarek explained. “Physics is the explanation of the physical world. Metaphysics is the study of that realm beyond physics that includes spirituality, fate and philosophy. Pataphysics is the study of the exceptions to the rules. It is the ultimate anti-establishment position. Pataphysics started right at the beginning of the 20th century and the beginning of modernism.”

“I’m a romantic,” he added, “but I appreciate what Jarry represents. ‘Slope’ is a non-objective abstract sculpture. It looks like a blob. How can you tell whether it is good or not? It is difficult for those who have not studied art to appreciate.” 

In addition to teaching and creating works for national art competitions, Vinklarek has been involved with SAMFA for more than 30 years.

Vinklarek's “Shaft,” cast aluminum and a fan, was selected for display in the 2013 Salmon Sculpture Competition.Vinklarek's “Shaft,” cast aluminum and a fan, was selected for display in the 2013 Salmon Sculpture Competition.“John is a very passionate and engaging lecturer,” Taylor said. “He is also one of the most informed people I know of what’s going on in the contemporary art world. The university is very fortunate to have someone of his broad knowledge.”

And Vinklarek is happy to pass on that knowledge and his philosophy to his ASU art students.

“Art is big and expansive and widely accepting of a lot of stuff,” he said. “Art is no longer this glorified image of nobility or heroes. A student has to understand all this.”

“I think pataphysics is a fun way to begin the discussion,” he added. “It points out the absurd nature of human events. Art before either glamorized or idealized. Art today points out the flaws and idiosyncrasies.”

  • Laurel Scott

    Laurel Scott

    Laurel Scott is a news and information specialist at Angelo State University. 
    Email Laurel at laurel.scott@angelo.edu.