Sometimes, when you are contemplative or bored or just feeling childish, you might indulge in one of the simplest sources of entertainment available to humankind: the activity of staring for a very long time at some brightly illuminated object in direct sunlight and then closing your eyes tightly, and allowing those vivid approximations of shape to dance underneath your squinting eyelids. How delightfully simple it is, watching that ephemeral carousel of inverted, brilliant lines upon which you have the infinite ability to ascribe narrative and form. Sometimes, those shapes that slip in and out of a person’s closed eyelids are far more beautiful and interesting than the physical objects themselves.
British artist Rose Wylie makes art that feels informed by this human process of whimsical prescription. Her paintings feature objects from the world immediately accessible to her, like subjects from media with which she has engaged, or items from her garden or home. These paintings– not direct copies of reality but rather personal interpolations of objects that populate her own domestic space, perform that metaphorical act of gazing into the sun, of eye-closing. An exhibition of her large-scale paintings and related drawings–CLOSE, not too close–is on display at David Zwirner in Los Angeles until October 14th.
Wylie, soon to be eighty-nine years old, works from the seventeenth-century era home that she’s lived in for over 50 years. The building, its contents, and its wild garden are the foundations for a number of Wylie’s works, including “My House,” and “White Building,” in which she marries the architectural impressions of the structures with bold, scrawling words and warm color palettes. Other works are abstracted from Wylie’s encounters with media–“Pink News Reader” is drawn in the likeness of a newscaster Wylie saw on a bleak BBC newscast, which harkened the eerie, stark pallette. The genesis point of “Spindle and Cover Girl” was a photo of Christine Quinn (of Selling Sunset fame) Wylie saw on the cover of Observer Magazine: she was struck by the woman’s outfit and formidable photographic presence, and built the work not from the magazine cover itself, but rather from her experience of the magazine and the woman on it.
“When I make a painting, I observe, but I also transform. You’re observing that they are this color, this shape, this size. They look like this, they feel like this, they smell like this. And then you try to put those things together in a painting,” Wylie says of her process. Her frequent revisitation of cultural and physical motifs across multiple works proves to be an investigation of not just the subject but the psychological processes that infuse an encounter between an object and its observer with importance.
CLOSE, not too close, marks Wylie’s sixth exhibition with David Zwirner and her first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. Her work, broadly recognizable for its unique style and proximity to pop culture, can be found in prominent collections throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, including Arario Museum, Seoul; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC; Space K, Seoul; Städtische Galerie Wolfsburg, Germany; Tate, London; and Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. The exhibition will be on display at David Zwirner until October 14th.