Object Image

An American Puzzle

Lloyd Schermer created An American Puzzle out of antique printing type, advertising plates, and engravings created for mastheads. Some of the type blocks are as much as two hundred years old and include carved maple, birch, ebony, walnut and mahogany, as well as forged metal pieces. In 1964, when Schermer's newspaper in Missoula, Montana, converted from typeset printing to offset lithography (which uses photography to transfer the image of each page of a newspaper), he salvaged much of the old type and stored it in his home until he could decide what to do with it. Almost thirty years later, Schermer began working with the type, using a strong solvent to clean the ink from the typeface, then waxing and buffing the sculptural bits before mounting them to a support. An American Puzzle is a richly abstracted field of shapes that evokes an archaeological remnant, a layer of history rescued from a "dig." It suggests the visual impact of the printed page as well as the thousands of voices that contribute to a community's history over the generations. Schermer has served on several boards within the Smithsonian, and the wide variety of elements in this piece reflects the broad interests of the institution as well as the artist's memories of the publishing business.

Credit: Gift of the artist

Wood type mounted on wood
121.9 x 243.8cm
Image and text: Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2024

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