John Scott

Carmen Lamanna Gallery

In John Scott’s drawing, Invoking the Googol Plex, a diminutive stick figure half taunts, half dares himself to conceive of the metaphysical out of the mathematical by multiplying a googol by itself. (When Kurt Gödel asked a young child what he would call a number just slightly below the infinite, the child replied, “A googol.”) All of Scott’s miraculous drawings have a similar “what if . . .” quality about them that reminds us of that childhood moment when some geography teacher said the universe has no end.

They’re really awe-inspired drawings, full, of a boyish apprehension of fact. The guilelessness of these drawings matches the unsuppressed fascination that Scott seems to have for their subjects. Planes and cars, icons of North American boyhood, are pictured as they are about to explode upon reaching the speed of light, their state indicat-ed simply by the smudging of black edges.

An SR-71A reconnaissance plane, after which one of the larger drawings is named, is depicted cruising over the northern hemisphere, and dwarfing the world. Below the plane, the cap of the earth is divided into notated grids, appearing as plotted and open as the war map in Dr. Strangelove’s sanctum sanctorum. A plane also dominates Firestorm, shown as it veers away from the mushroom fallout over a bomb test site.

In Recent Discoveries Affect Our Daily Life, a pinheaded anthropomorph arises from the surface of his planet as two discrete pencilled arrows indicate his direction (up) and his motion (twirling). It’s like Fred Flintstone responding to the inevitable trumpet blast that marks the climax of each television episode. Arms flailing, eyes bugging, he realizes with that blast that he’s a Stone Age man on 20th-century TV.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for notation, or perhaps it’s the drawing-in-the-margin-of-the-science-textbook-like quality of the drawings that appeals to me. They’re like Popular Science magazine challenging Western philosophy—over the top of Firestorm, Scott has scrawled, “Little Hearts [there’s] no escape.”

Martha Fleming