EXHIBIT

ECUMENOPOLIS

JACOB WENZKA

MARCH 1 - APRIL 30, 2021

ATHICA is delighted to announce the first exhibition of a new partnership in which ATHICA has assumed curatorial duties for the Ciné art gallery, featuring the paintings of prolific local artist Jacob Wenzka and his series Ecumenopolis.

According to Wenzka, “ecumenopolis” is a term that was invented in 1967 by the Greek city planner Constantinos Apostolou Doxiadis, and the word literally translates to “world city.” The hypothetical concept of the ecumenopolis is the fifteenth level of ekistic units (concerning the study of human settlements), and the most significant, as it represents the point where the smaller units of the giant cities (metropolis, megalopolis, eperopolis, etc.) have fused to cover an entire planet. This concept has been the inspiration for film and literature for nearly a century. For Wenzka, it has also been the subject of an ongoing series of drawings and paintings that he has been working on in some form or another for about a decade.

Wenzka’s paintings situate the imaginary floating cities of the Ecumenopolis within a palette of muted, natural colors on substrates of wood. The contrast the artist creates between science fiction and the natural world is intended to pose questions to the viewer; Wenzka asks us: “Is this a positive, optimistic future, where we are boldly exploring space, looking for new life, and seeking out new civilizations? Or is this a frightening post-apocalyptic vision, where we have had to flee our planet due to climate change, war, and disease, and these ecumenopoli represent the last bastion of humanity, struggling to survive on limited resources and fuel?”

The work is available for viewing in the Ciné gallery as COVID precautions permit; an online exhibition will be available here on the ATHICA website in early March.

More about Jacob Wenzka

Jacob Wenzka is a painter and illustrator who resides in Athens, GA. He began showing his artwork with a solo exhibition on the walls of Jittery Joe’s coffee shop in 1999, while he was a student in art school. He still continues to show his art in a variety of galleries, group exhibitions, and alternative venues in Athens and the southeast. Jacob graduated from the University of Georgia Lamar Dodd School of Art in 2001 with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art, and briefly pursued a degree in graphic design and illustration. In addition to his fine art, Jacob began working as an illustrator in 2013, and he has illustrated several books for adults and children over the past decade, founding New Growth Publishing with local author Bart King in 2015. The creative duo have released four children’s books under their publishing label and have a new project in the works. Jacob’s latest series, “Ecumenopolis,” explores fantastical worlds and contemporary thematic elements, and has been progressing through several phases since the early 2010’s. Please feel free to follow his current work on Instagram and Facebook.


Artist’s Statement

“Ecumenopolis” is a term that was invented in 1967 by the Greek city planner Constantinos Apostolou Doxiadis, and the word literally translates to “world city.” The hypothetical concept of the ecumenopolis is the fifteenth level of ekistic units (concerning the study of human settlements), and the most significant, as it represents the point where the smaller units of the giant cities (metropolis, megalopolis, eperopolis, etc) have fused to cover an entire planet. This concept has been the inspiration for film and literature for nearly a century. For me, it has also been the subject of an ongoing series of drawings and paintings that I have been working on in some form or another for about a decade.

My interest in art started with a love of science fiction. My first “serious drawings” were copied from my comic books – elves and orcs, and designs for fantastical weapons and spaceships. As I grew older, my interests in Star Wars and Elfquest were largely supplanted by my interests in girls and guitars, but at 42 I still read comics and enjoy a good movie or book about wizards or aliens when I can. While I was in art school at the University of Georgia, my strongest works were the ones that continued to draw on the aesthetics elements of fantasy and science fiction from my youth. Ecumenical themes also began to emerge, and I realized later that my mind equated religion to another version of the fantasy stories that had inspired my primary school artwork. Angels were flying superheroes, and hooded monks symbolized wizards with mysterious powers. Society has recently come to embrace counter culture (the “nerd stuff”) as “cool,” and perhaps this is why my paintings seem to particularly resonate in the context of current events.

Although I have been making these “Ecumenopolis” paintings intermittently for close to a decade, they have taken on a new meaning in the context of the past several months. Working largely in isolation, and listening to the news of the COVID pandemic, rising civil unrest, and a frightening, growing divide in society has had an effect on my mental state. Surely, this is also reflected in my art, although I feel that it may be years before I can completely understand and unravel the full impact. These floating cities have an implied narrative, but it is not my intention as the artist to create a specific story for the viewer. For me, it has always been more about the general aesthetic than the underlying message. There is a vision of the future here, but I want you to think about what kind of future it looks like for YOU. Is this a positive, optimistic future, where we are boldly exploring space, looking for new life, and seeking out new civilizations? Or is this a frightening post-apocalyptic vision, where we have had to flee our planet due to climate change, war, and disease, and these ecumenopoli represent the last bastion of humanity, struggling to survive on limited resources and fuel?

I can’t (or won’t) exactly tell you what future these Ecumenopoli represent for me. It varies from day to day. I pray for the best, but fear the worst. What I will tell you is that when I paint these floating cities, part of me is still a little kid, orbiting the unfinished Death Star in my X-wing spaceship, hoping to be a wizard someday, and just enjoying the process of daydreaming.

Ecumenopolis by Jacob Wenzka is sponsored in part by The James E. and Betty J. Huffer Foundation, The Georgia Council for the Arts, and The National Endowment for the Arts.