Appreciating William T. Wiley
I saw a piece by William Wiley this weekend, at the Santa Monica Auctions preview. Wiley is a funny artist. His work is a little old-fashioned, but for reasons that are good: Wiley’s work is engaged with the world he sees and lives in. It is committed to an irony that is not self-reflexive but is evidence of a skeptical relationship to the larger world. His paintings and works on paper target political figures, environmental concerns, personal life, the art world, and culture.
It seems charmingly naive right now to work the way Wiley does, to not announce in scare quotes in one’s art that with this present action, one is making Art.
Wiley uses language in his paintings and drawings, in titles and in the bodies of the work. His titles are often acerbic moments of wordplay that lampoon current events, somewhat in the manner of a political cartoonist. In his drawings and paintings he will sometimes script a running commentary that, for me, disrupts my experience as a solitary viewer and places the artist himself in my face and ear and mind.
It is also true that Wiley’s paintings and drawings are beautiful, for he is an amazing technician.
As an artist, Wiley seems skeptical of the art world, and his work is often critical of art world pretensions. Yet Wiley is not an outsider. He’s been in a Whitney and a Carnegie International. He’s represented the US in the Venice Biennale and Documenta V.
William Wiley kind of kicks butt.