artnet Asks: Chris Wiley
Don't miss this artist's "dingbat" deconstructionist photos.
Writer and artist Chris Wiley works from a deconstructionist’s perspective—an innate distrust in photography’s depiction of a scene or the state of the world. Abandoning the idea of the photographic frame depicting a wider scene, he captures close-up details and textures of objects and buildings in what he calls “Dingbats.” His photography is vivid and draws the eye to previously overlooked details. The name is inspired by small, cookie-cutter stucco homes called dingbats that were prevalent mid-century in Southern California. He is also further developing a sculptural series called “Wingdings,” recently shown at MoMA PS1. Wiley received his BA from Sarah Lawrence College, and his MA with distinction in contemporary art theory from Goldsmiths College. He is currently the editor-at-large for Kaleidoscope magazine. His work has been exhibited extensively in the United States and Europe, including at Nicelle Beauchene Gallery in New York, Marian Goodman Gallery in Paris, and Hauser & Wirth in New York. Wiley lives and works in Brooklyn.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
There wasn’t really a Damascene conversion, unfortunately, so it doesn’t make for a very good story. In all likelihood, I realized sometime before high school, when I first began taking photography classes. There was something about transforming the world into a picture—flattening otherwise unruly space into a composition—that was magical. It still is, when the picture works.
What inspires you?
For the past couple of years, I’ve been principally inspired by the architecture of Los Angeles, which has been the subject of all of my recent photographs. I’m enamored with the idea that the city was never meant to be seen on foot, and that looking at it closely constitutes a kind of perversion. This, and the fact that the city appears as if it is already a photograph, petrified in the unchanging desert light. Otherwise, I have been extremely inspired by my research into the history of the quest to develop strong A.I., emergence theory, and psychedelic shamanism. How this will show up in my work remains to be seen, but developments are currently underway.
If you could own any work of modern or contemporary art, what would it be?
Despite the fact that I collect the work of my peers and others, I think that it is generally more satisfying not to own an artwork at all. The act of choosing a work tacitly implies the exclusion of so many others, and there is so much art I love. Perhaps I am more satisfied with the idea of an imaginary museum, whose vast scope could encompass everything. Or perhaps I’m just indecisive.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am continuing work on my series of photographs from Los Angeles that I call “Dingbats,” after both the ersatz International Modernist-style housing that proliferated in Los Angeles in the 1950s and ’60s, and the pictographic typeface that acts as a kind of ersatz language. I am assuming that I’ll be making these works for quite a while. I am also working on a related series of sculptural works called “Wingdings,” that I initially premiered at PS1 this year, which is still very new and fertile territory to be explored. On the horizon is a project about office park architecture, but it’s still in the development stages.
In addition to my artwork, I am also in the process of curating a group show at MOCCA in Toronto as part of the Scotiabank CONTACT photography festival next year. Roughly, the show will consist of the works of my peers who are working with photography, and a select group of historical antecedents that will serve to put their work in context.
I’m also working on writing fiction.
When not making art, what do you like to do?
I spend a lot of my time when I’m not directly making work reading, writing, and researching, which all pretty much acts as an extension of my work. I have recently taken up archery, however, and I’m pretty excited about it.
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