John Wesley at Chinati 2009
John Wesley confuses the hell out of people but I really like his work, the
has a piece on him here today
. Of course Donald Judd liked his work too
and upon a recent viewing of his installation
I could see why. He was also an excellent addition to Robert
Site Santa Fe Biennial on the grotesque,
fitting right in with R. Crumb,
Carroll Dunham, Robert Gober and Tony Oursler. Wesley's work certainly does
create a kind of "Soul Dizzyness" Storr described in the biennial's
So what is it about Wesley that keeps him an insider's favorite? For me its
his clean clear fugal forms of composition, his blurring between the private
things we all notice but don't speak about and bland things we always seem to
discuss... like the predictably torrid lives of celebrities (his work makes
Access Hollywood obsolete). But it's also Wesley's deft deadpan comedic timing,
wicked wit and rigorous restraint that slays me. A lot of people scratch their
heads about why Judd liked his work but I don't... they both had a systematic
and rigorous approach. Put it this way, in Judd and Wesley there are no happy
accidents... it's effect is 100% intended from the outset. If one were to measure
an artist by considering their intent and effect, Wesley and Judd seem like
close cousins. For Pop comparison's sake, Wesley exerted so much more control
than Warhol, yet was a great deal more lyrical than Lichtenstein... so much
so that his work always feels alien, not familiar like a POP artist's. In many
ways he's like the clean/controlled antipode of Raymond Pettibon.
I also think
Wesley's Chinati presence helps make the case that Judd's tastes were a lot wider
and more catholic than people give him credit for. I think understanding Wesley helps break our more hackneyed thinking about Judd and Flavin away from that crutch word "minimalism" too. Also, Judd and Flavin in combination with Wesley makes the "Pop" seam in art seem a tad crude as a term as well. I've been working on a non-linear (churned? blended? frappe'd?) history of art lecture for the past year and I did a preliminary lecture at the U of O last year. I now realize Wesley needs to be added.
Last but not least. the Portland Art Museum has a nice Wesley in the Jubitz Center up most of the
time, I'll discuss it at length later this week.
Who's this Judd character? Everyone seems to have a boner over him now, is he the new Irwin or something?
Well he is dead so no. Maybe you should look him up.
Just a heads up, if you thought there has been too much talk about Judd as of late... better buy some earplugs because it is going to get a w h o l e lot worse.
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