William T. Wiley - Artists - Bivins Gallery

“The impossibility of pigeonholing painter William Wiley is evident in the range of sound bites critics use to describe his work.  He’s been called everything from the ‘Michelangelo of Funk’ to a ‘dude ranch dadaist’ to a ‘kinder, gentler Ted Kaczynski.’  Perhaps because his work is so sprawling, it’s tempting to try to coin the perfect phrase to encompass the opposites Wiley embraces.”

“Let’s start with appearances: Wiley’s paintings look like great big little kid’s drawings - but drawn by a really smart little kid who reads fairy tales and the Bible, is an ecological activist, knows the esoterics of Christian art and has a few theories about the origin of the universe.  Images and text are interwoven in an anachronistic tapestry.  Funky, homemade bar codes are plunked down next to alchemical symbols in maelstroms of charcoal enveloped by torrents of paint.”

“Visionary, cosmological and autobiographical themes are typically ‘outsider’ subjects, while insiders are supposed to content themselves with more cliquish subjects.  That’s why Wiley’s paintings, with their awkward enthusiasms, are such a conundrum.  They have the kind of obsessive, technophobic look of art that is trying to build a bridge between mystical enlightenment and interior decoration.”

“Wiley’s work is like outsider art for insiders. . . . [I]n Wiley’s work we are let in on the outsider’s story.  His allusions are . . . better for being honestly sophisticated as opposed to slavishly unspoiled.  Purity - even in madness - can be a little dull.”

“Artists take the things we all can see and show us the possibilities we couldn’t see.  They shouldn’t be fenced into the tiny acreage of what we fashionably call ‘appropriate’ or ‘authentic.’  Like Wiley, they should be encouraged to go outside.”

--Gerard Brown


“My conclusion is that Wiley is impossible to classify.  One might ask, “But is he mainstream?”  He’s better than that.  He is one of the most important artists to challenge the very notion of “Mainstream” art.  His work has already added a great deal to art, his inventiveness, his laid-back wit, his humanistic humor.  He has helped open up art to all kinds of personal expression that modernist academy has forbidden.  His daring art has been of enormous influence.”

“It is becoming more and more apparent that he is a major artist.  His seriousness is in no way undercut by his quirky, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes paradoxical vision.  In fact, this vision is at the center of his art.  Those smiles his work so often cause are smiles of recognition, smiles of glee.  The foibles and the homey triumph that he chronicles - in a grand flood of images, objects, textures, markings and words - signify personal artistic release.”

-- John Perreault

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