Milan

Graham Wilson, A.O. #27 (90 sq “Fire”), 2015, oil, pigment, charcoal, and paint scrapings on canvas, 90 × 90". From the five-part suite Natural Motion, 2015.

Graham Wilson, A.O. #27 (90 sq “Fire”), 2015, oil, pigment, charcoal, and paint scrapings on canvas, 90 × 90". From the five-part suite Natural Motion, 2015.

Graham Wilson

Brand New Gallery

Graham Wilson, A.O. #27 (90 sq “Fire”), 2015, oil, pigment, charcoal, and paint scrapings on canvas, 90 × 90". From the five-part suite Natural Motion, 2015.

The thread connecting the fifteen works (all 2015) in Graham Wilson’s recent exhibition “I Clocked Out when I Punched In” seemed to be time—specifically, time as it plays out in the valuation of artistic production. Wilson’s self-reflexive exhibition presented cheeky meditations on the status of his own work, in terms of both its cultural and economic capital. Some pieces are quite literal: Institutionalized suggests that the time spent producing a work can be systematically monetized, and that the artist might be conceived as an office worker. A broken vintage punch clock was installed on the wall above a pile of time cards stamped during the past year and a half, recording the hours the artist spent finishing the works in the show—works that ultimately, perhaps, were assigned value only once they were realized in the gallery. This demonstration of labor invited a consideration of the relationship between economic and cultural value. A comedic critical register could also be found in the work Any Way “You” Cut It: a signed check (sealed in an envelope) from the Gagosian Gallery to the artist, framed and overlaid with a matrix of dotted black “cut here” lines and five vinyl scissor graphics. Installed below this work was Aint No ‘I’ in Team, which features a similarly farcical corrective: A T-shirt with the face of Jeffrey Deitch lay crumpled on the ground, accompanied by an iron.

Other reflections, in contrast, took the form of abstract metaphors. For example, in Where ‘I’ Draw the Line, a dense black line drawn directly onto the wall with an oil stick effectively cut it horizontally at eye level. This deliberately heavy gesture was somewhat messy, allowing the viewer to perceive the efforts and errors of the hand involved in its making. In the title, instead of the temporal indication when, the artist uses the conjunction where, emphasizing the site of his action: the gallery. But this sense of place is more than literal; he was asking the viewer to consider not just the ways in which the work was aesthetically impacted by the dimensions of the physical gallery but also the gallery’s role in shaping the work and its meaning as it there becomes the subject of economic exchange. We also see Wilson’s skepticism regarding the art establishment in the video Reaping Everything ‘I’ Sew, which could be seen only on the gallery website. This work shows the artist in overalls busily digging a hole in earth peppered with gold flakes. He finally abandons the project, a move that could be read as a refusal to produce work that is easily nurtured by the market.

The dominant work in the exhibition was Natural Motion, consisting of twenty-five narrow vertical paintings that are divided into five modules (each an autonomous work) titled respectively A.O. #24 (90 sq “Earth”), A.O. #25 (90 sq “Water”), A.O. #26 (90 sq Wind), A.O. #27 (90 sq “Fire”), and A.O. #28 (90 sq “Aether”). The canvases in each feature the results of a range of intentional and unintentional mark-making procedures: Some strips are splattered with paint; others support accumulations of paint chips shaved from other paintings. Wilson revives specific processes from art history (dripping, assemblage) to reflect on his own engagement with painting as a continuous temporal process that builds on and undoes his own history of production—the materials he has employed, the discourses he has entered—just as it does the larger cultural trajectory of the medium. Installed in the exhibition, these modules orchestrated a rhythm obtained from assonances and variations, like the notes of a musical score.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.