I like reading other people’s diaries, especially artists, and so naturally I was drawn to Eric Wesley’s new work at Bortolami. The show features paintings of his daily progress status reports–a combination of to-do lists and daily calendar entries.
[Image at top: Eric Wesley, slideshow of paintings in the show at Bortolami]
The faint DPS pages, folded and crumpled, appear to be bad xeroxes of the originals, screen printed onto thin, sometimes dented, aluminum panels and attached to linen that has been stretched over traditional supports. Some of the “pages” have been drawn over, others have paint applied on top, but they all seem to depict relics from the artist’s studio, proof of the process and effort that goes into planning and fabricating work for a show.
Wesley is known for creating thematic exhibitions in diverse media that bear little resemblance to previous outings, and this show is no different, with painting as his chosen medium. This year, like other contemporary artists, he has latched onto the notion of “labor”–in particular, the process of making art. At the same time, his work references older work, like Lee Lozano’s notebooks, which Lozano presented as drawings back in the 1960s. The difference in Wesley’s work is that his images of pages–for projects that may or may not have been realized — seem meaningless. The hole at the center of Wesley’s conceptual premise is that the work is really about avoiding labor. The doodles, ink splats and other fun, sketchy images created with “painstaking trompe-l’œil technique” speak to a lack of ambition more than anything else. Rather than “a droll meditation on artistic labor and the constant demand to be productive,” Wesley has found a clever but familiar way to make art that, like a selfie uploaded to Instagram, doesn’t require too much thought or effort, either on the part of the artist or the viewer.
Lately I have been looking for more in painting–more image, more color, more effort, more materials, more thought–and Wesley’s doesn’t deliver. Had he included some of the three-dimensional work–perhaps a few of the pieces that he alludes to in the daily progress status reports–the show would be much richer. I hope that’s the plan for his 2015 exhibition at 365 Mission Road in Los Angeles.
“ERIC WESLEY: Daily Progress Status Reports,” Bortolami, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through October 4, 2014.
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