William Wiley

William Wiley’s exhibition at Mills College Art Museum consists of paintings, constructions and poetry. The entire exhibition has an introspective feeling, but one is really unable to discern what form the introspection is taking. A piece entitled Art Through the Ages is made of that venerable history of art by Helen Gardner sewn up in a canvas bag and covered with beeswax. It is one of a series of constructed objects dealing with locked or sealed books. Wiley’s continuing concern for the paraphernalia of the art world is further exposed by a piece entitled The Red Easel. The easel in this case is prone within a 70-by-25-by-3-inch slab of beeswax. These two pieces, along with a third entitled Ashes from the Silver Shield, point up a strain in Wiley’s art that could justly be called morbid. Wiley’s use of the artifacts of the art world to describe his own anxiety about that world is not unique but it is telling because among other things it lacks any type of sensationalism. The objects have a reluctant air about them as if they wished not to be seen because of their mutilated state.

In mentioning the above pieces one gets some idea of one aspect of the exhibition. The paintings are less clear in intent and deal with visual and poetic paradox, irony and humor. Each work deals with objects in rooms or enclosures having little in common other than the fact that they are together. Wiley’s well-known virtuosity is very apparent in the paint handling and rendering within each work.

––James Monte