(American, 1946-) Fred Truck graduated from the Iowa Wesleyan College with everything but an art degree. After beginning his career writing, he ran into a dry spell. Needing a job, Truck opted for printing school in Ankeny, Iowa. There he was allowed free use of the machines and materials, where he could print the books he had been working on in his leisure time. His first book was comprised of an invented language of modern hieroglyphics translated into English. “On one side there would be a bunch of pictures and on the other I would translate them.” He produced a small vocabulary of these little images.
Unknown to Truck at the time, artist books were in demand and his were attracting attention. He never intended to be an artist, but his books were gaining recognition in the art world. He was included in a show exclusively comprised of artist books, where he was introduced to many people, and from there “it really just took off.” Through these books Truck met Carl Loeffler, who invited him to participate in a programming project for the Whole Earth Catalog. There Truck created an online forum with very little knowledge of how to do it. This forum consisted of “a lot of conceptual things,” including an assemblage of online performances and casino games. From this, Truck moved to virtual reality, creating a Leonardo da Vinci flying machine for the Banff Center for the Arts in Alberta, Canada. This flying machine was Truck’s first brush with three-dimensional animation, over thirty years ago. This program, The Labyrinth, guides users through the myth of Daedalus’ escape from the prison of Minos using an ornithopter- as Truck envisioned Leonardo da Vinci would have designed it.
Conceptual ideas are numerous in Truck’s work. He created a fictitious corporation, the Badge of Quality Corporation, with Truck taking the role of President and CEO and Mr. Milk Bottle as its public representative. The company offers complimentary art once money is invested in the Badge, but art cannot be purchased outright. Mr. Milk Bottle originated from animated characters of a bottle, fork and spoon that Truck remembered from a book of poetry he often read in the 70s and heavily influenced by early 20th Century animation. Mr. Milk Bottle has been used in many interactive animations, including the role of a mind reader.
From Mr. Milk Bottle, Truck moved onto photography, at a time when digital images “started getting really good.” In 2005, he bought a digital camera and took three years getting a handle on how to best use it. “And then I joined Flickr,” where he found no one was doing art for the sake of art, they were doing it for emotional expression. Flickr allowed him to examine different types of photography and find which were most interesting to him. He settled on stereographic projections and anaglyph images. His stereographic images are captured using a fisheye lens and then stitched together digitally to appear seamless and globe-like. His favorite environments for capturing stereographic images are interior spaces, being more complex and confined than the outdoors. He began shooting these projections at the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He would photograph people looking at art, because it makes the experience completely different, placing the viewer in a surreal world, an artificial reality. Truck is a pioneer of the usage of this photographic medium.
His anaglyph images require the use of Red/Cyan 3D glasses to truly benefit from the image. Most of his anaglyph images are of everyday objects and scenes, including Truck’s own bonsai trees, self-portraits and even the state fair and landscapes. As these images are focused on creating depth in a simplistic space, any setting with a clear foreground and background can be enhanced into this type of photographic representation.
Fred’s body of work, at first, appears inconsistent, moving from one medium to another, but all of his work contains some element of conceptuality and visual aesthetic. Truck’s book, 10 Year Sandwich, 2009, presents sculpture and prints made by Truck from 1995 through 2005.
Truck is included in the collections of the Jean Brown Archive in the Getty Museum, CA, The Museum of Modern Art, NY, the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, FL, die Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Germany, and the University of Iowa, IA. He has also shown his work at a wide-range of venues, from the Des Moines Art Center, IA, Steven Vail Galleries, IA, Tacoma Art Museum, WA, Museum of Modern Art, NY, to the Fundacio La Caixa, Spain, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, the Banff Center for the Arts, Alberta, and the Street Gallery, Numazu City Bank, Japan.