Jeffrey Wang "Truth"

Jul 14, 2011 - Aug 7, 2011

 Jeffrey Wang’s Hybrids of Art History

 Endlessly lost, historically synthesized, the manufactured visual characters in Jeffrey Wang’s paintings reveal his inexhaustible talent for reinventing art historical models for an ahistorical ever changing age. Working in a largely figurative mode, Jeffrey Wang challenges our sensibilities with images that look classical even Florentine or Renaissance at times but they are riddled with critical cultural insight. These paintings are strangely disquieting. The placement of the people, their satirical expressions are comparable to the German Expressionists of the past, the Neue Sachlichkeit in Weimar Germany. The arrangements involve slight distortion, and incongruities worthy of German artist George Grosz,. Wang’s intention however is not social satire, but delight in playing with the way we interpret imagery. Indeed his painterly project seems to involve a reconfiguration of narration for a thoroughly relativist and multi-faceted contemporary world. Indeed Wang’s art challenges the notion that historicity can be seen only from a homogenized perspective. One Untitled oil on canvas reveals a seated man holding a precious looking doll in his hands whole another man behind him talks on a cell phone. Some dollars on the table and coins, broken baguette of bread and a  knife on a table beside this man, and an airplane flying in the background further this sense of an ongoing and incongruous narrative. Is this scenario comic or suspicious, who knows? Nostalgia and irony intermingle in these sensitive and clever renderings of scenes that look like they could have been conceived by a Paolo Uccello or Leonardo Wang captures all the confusion that exists in visual culture in an age of distraction and mixed mediatic signals. Another Untitled painting looks almost as if it could have been a Last Supper. There is a nude Christ like figure on the floor with his hand raised seemingly symbolically, but this could simply be a gesture without any hidden symbolism. A standing boy holds a cat in his arms, while other campy looking kids sit and hand around a table. One has cowboy boots. A floral motif, Tantric painting and portrait of Karl Marx on the wall immediately behind these painted personalities highlight the undermining temperament of  relativist  ahistoricity.

Jeffrey Wang’s  oeuvre makes clear that anachronisms are not what they used to be. The visuals, and the contexts, and the histories are all overlapping likes the hundreds of channels, thousands of programs on our screens. Another scene of a warrior prince on his horse, a standing nude woman, looks Renaissance, but is simple invention and reconfiguration. Season II again looks classical. These common T-shirted characters could be On the Road to Emmaus for the Resurrection Of Christ. Indeed one of them has his arms held out as if in a Crucifixion scene. More probably, these guys are on the road to nowhere. Season III with its potential picnic scene is almost Andrew Wyeth in its spirit, like a Christina’s World of magic and incongruous austerity. The woman has her back turned while the guy looks on. The horse in the distance stands like an icon of rural existence in this netherworld. Seeing Off again has those Renaissance like buildings and beatific landscape details in the background. The nude woman looks into a mirror on her white horse while an oversized Dachshund and hunter type with a rifle and hat holds a candlestick. The painting strangely recalls George Grosz’s 1926 painting The Eclipse of the Sun where headless suited figures sit around a table with a skeleton nearby. A crucifix, a sabre and a top hatted businessman build on the incongruity of it all. In Seeinf Off, Wang challenges the overabundance of beautiful imagery, using culture clash, and mixed metaphors, literally stretching art historical references the same way Ron Mueck stretches bodies and faces in his oversized contemporary sculptures. Righteous Men of South Peking has a costumed crowd of boys who look like they costumed by a renaissance fitter for a costume ball but the skull, the crow, the rabbit, and doll-like nude in someone’s hand makes it kind of Bosch-like with its vibe of corruption. These paintings are timeless reinventions drawn from Jeffrey Wang’s abundant visual imagination. The personalities who populate Jeffrey Wang’s paintings are resigned, have a sense of shame, and yet are strangely naïve. Under all of this there is a subtle and sophisticated social critique. Its all designed and painted for a culture in the comfort zone, that seeks significance in other places, other times that were not so different from our own. History reinvents itself, art reinvents itself. Ars longa, vita brevis !

 -       John K. Grande

  • Summer in South Pekin
  • Feng Yi Ting
  • Spring (Season I)
  • Fall (Season III)
  • Summer (Season II)
  • Winter (Season IV)
  • Six Righteous Men of South Peking
  • Seeing Off
  • Dream Hostige
  • Truth
  • Good Men Good Women