Victor Wilde’s New Work is Edgy and Cheeky
At Contemporary Gallery
By Genie Davis
Cheeky, a collection of mixed media works, paintings, and prints from LA-based artist Victor Wilde is aptly named. Edgy, irreverent, fascinating, and vehemently socio-political in nature, the show, at DTLA’s Contemporary Gallery, is a perfect introduction to Wilde’s style and aesthetic.
During the opening, footage shot by filmmaker Matt Doheny detailed the making-of a number of the artworks on display; seeing how Wilde works opens viewer’s minds to the meaning and effort behind each piece. The film will continue to screen throughout the run of the exhibition. Brooklyn-raised, Wilde has created public performance art, video art, and under the label Bohemian Society, post-punk fashion that is art in and of itself.
Wilde describes his inspiration for the exhibition. “Cheeky means to be irreverent in an amusing or endearing way. The world seems so chaotic now, but in truth it has always been, we just have more people, cell phones, internet, TV, etc., so we hear and see it more now.” He adds “I think the nature of the world is inherently chaotic. I’m inspired by the Harry Lime quote from The Third Man, ‘Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.’”
What the artist most wants viewers to know about this immersive exhibition – entering the gallery space is like stepping into Wilde’s own personal performance – is that “I literally risk my life and go on intense, ridiculous, romantic adventures in order to produce this work. Things most people would think of as ‘crazy.’” He says that the difference between this exhibition and others he has done is primarily the process. “A great deal of the work was fully documented. I’ve been a documentarian since I was twelve. It was great to be able to capture the process and show it to those in attendance.”
Wilde is always creating, and he says that he approaches both his cool, unique fashion and his art in the same way. “I create fashion and art simultaneously and approach both mediums from the same perspective. To me, it’s all art.” According to Wilde “I would say this direction is my method. It just keeps evolving and a narrative is begging to appear.”
And the way in which that narrative appears is tactile and involving. You can’t so much see Wilde’s work as you are absorbed into it, caught up in something that takes you an experiential edge. It would be hard to grasp where Wilde is heading next, and the artist himself agrees “You will have to come to the next show to find out. Like I said, this is an adventure!”
Blending unconventional materials, designing clothing, shaping mixed media art works and documenting the process, Wilde’s work is extremely varied, all of it vibrating with attitude, and intensely motivating to the audience. He’s challenging us and entertaining us at the same time – and it is indeed an adventure for viewers to take in the work as well as for Wilde in creating it.
The current adventure now on display at Contemporary Gallery includes a wide range of works: sculptural mixed media works such as the figure of a baby Jesus nested in a basket, surrounded by a velvet stanchion rope, studded with bullets; a student’s school desk whose one leg rests on a handgun – “Fair and balanced,” as Wilde describes the work. There is the perfect fashion/political statement of a crimson Vassar hoodie with a lining and cuffs made from a pattern of $100 dollar bills; both of the “s’s” in Vassar struck through with a white bone, creating dollar signs. Another bone changes the ‘r’ to an ‘l,’ spelling Vassal. Handbags with handcuffs as decorative bling and the lining of an American flag; a roughly sewn stuffed bear with the images of Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson from Zoolander on its body; a marksman’s target stamped ‘Terrorist’ and reconfigured to be a Klan member. Take it all in and you have an art aesthetic that needs only a Childish Gambino soundtrack.
There is wit, style, whimsy – you’ll laugh, but in recognition. With Wilde’s show you’ll see a reflection of who and what we are as a society. And that’s Cheeky indeed.