Monday, September 19, 2005

Artist of the Week 09/19/05

Although the press release for his most recent exhibition suggests he's revealed his process to at least one other artist, most artists I've asked tell me that William Wood (represented in New York by Jack Shainman Gallery) keeps the secret process he employs to create his remarkable, loopy, photographic-looking canvases closely guarded. There are a few clues though. First is the medium: "Oil and wax." Next is the description of the work as "automatist" abstractions made with a "simple homemade object as a surrogate for the artist’s hand."

What I've concluded from these details, combined with his gallery's declaration that he begins with a carefully prepared canvas and then works very quickly, is that some combination of oil paint and wax will spread when moved in such a fashion that it results in highly gradated gestures. What I still can't figure out is how these gestures remain so crisp on top of one another. Here's another example:

William Wood, For What It's Worth, 2004, Oil and wax on canvas (diptych), 108" X 72" [image from's page for Jack Shaniman Gallery)

For me, even more enigmatic, until I realized they were photogravure aquatints, was how he managed the same technique in his works on paper. Represented in New York by Pace Prints, Wood's aquatints are mysterious and gorgeous. Here's one:

William Wood, Untitled I, 1998, Photogravure Aquatint, 11" x 8.5", Published By Pace Editions, Inc, edition of 30

When I heard Wood was working in color as well, my first reaction was disappointment, thinking it wouldn't look as photographic...I thought he'd probably lose that stunning range of tonality. But as you can see in this diptych, I was wrong to doubt him. Here's an example of what I mean (although, as I always say, you can't judge subtlety in a jpg too well):

William Wood, Untitled, 2003, Oil and wax on canvas, 24" x 36" [image from Jack Shainman Gallery's website]

I started thinking about Wood's paintings recently while reading up on the transdisciplinary dialog developing between architecture and the visual arts since the emergence of the Fold as an important advance in architectural exploration. As Mark Linder argues in his book (Nothing Less than Literal) on a similar dialog between architects and the "Minimalists" in the 1960s, awarenesses in one discipline often have a fascinating (unstoppable) effect on those working in another discipline that eventually ends up influencing those working in the original discipline, despite themselves. Usually, this reflects a sociological awareness or fascination with a style, which is symbolic of a philosophical this case, a model to deal with how complex our world is becoming, but at this point, I tend to start nodding off.

But in thinking about all this I remembered how compelling I've always found Wood's work. As I was contemplating which visual artists have been exploring the Fold in their work, I realized William's been doing it for years. I've always found the way his paint is "dragged, twisted, turned and folded into a multifaceted space that disguises the effort of its creation behind a mask of complexity" (as his gallery described it) mesmerizing. Now I'm beginning to think, whether intentionally so or not, it's much more than that.


Anonymous marja-leena said...

Oh, I love these. As a printmaker myself, I'm rather intrigued by the third one being a photogravure AND an aquatint since photogravures are usually only that. I wonder if he took a photogravure and reworked it with the aquatint. Anway the result is wonderful.

Oh, and greetings from Vancouver, Canada!

9/19/2005 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Dhundte Rehe Jaoge said...

This is totally amazing work i must say

9/20/2005 09:42:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I agree. And the jpegs don't do it justice. In real life it's absolutely hypnotic.

9/20/2005 09:46:00 AM  

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