What’s It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect (March 17, 2010 – July 18, 2010)
BAM/PFA is the Only West Coast Venue for the
First Full-scale Look at Wiley’s 50-year CareerBerkeley, CA, March 12, 2010 – (Download a PDF version of this press release.) The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) presents What’s It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect, a survey of the witty, idiosyncratic, and introspective work of California artist William T. Wiley (b. 1937), March 17 through July 18, 2010. The first full-scale look at Wiley’s career since 1979, the exhibition includes more than 80 works—paintings, assemblage, theatrical events, film, and conceptual projects—from the 1960s to the present. The exhibition originated at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; BAM/PFA is the only West Coast venue.
“This exhibition offers a freewheeling ride through the nooks and crannies of Wiley’s amusing, individualistic, and sharply critical imagination, while holding up a telling mirror to American social and political life over the past half-century,” said Lucinda Barnes, BAM/PFA chief curator and curator in charge for the BAM/PFA presentation.
In work infused with references to popular culture, art history and literature, Wiley’s art has stood the test of time in the face of changing styles, successive movements, and passing fashion. His work ranges from traditional drawing, watercolor, acrylic painting, sculpture, and printmaking to performances, constructions of assorted materials, and more recently, printed pins, tapestries, and even a Wiley-designed, functioning pinball machine. He is a masterful draughtsman and colorist, and he has developed a distinctive style recognizable in all of his work.
“Wiley developed a language of characters, references, and gestures that move back and forth between painting and drawing, word and image, figuration and abstraction, often within the same work,” said Barnes. “Hide As a State of Mind (1971) is an exquisitely rendered and cartoon-spirited map/landscape/puzzle that constantly slides back and forth between such poles, a slipperiness that seems a destination in and of itself. Off in a corner, a cartoon figure heralds a statement, ‘GOD ONLY KNOWS WHAT WE WERE EXP__ING.’ Expecting? Exploring? The question is ours to contemplate.”
Fittingly, Wiley’s career began in the Bay Area, where he still resides. He attended the San Francisco Art Institute (B.F.A., 1961 and M.F.A., 1962) and later joined the faculty at the University of California, Davis. His work was exhibited in group shows in San Francisco and New York even during his student years. In 1967, BAM/PFA founding director Peter Selz included Wiley in his notorious exhibition Funk Art. Wiley, along with Bruce Nauman, Robert Arneson, and Roy DeForest, formed the nucleus of the Bay Area Funk movement. Wiley and Robert Hudson presented a “happening” for the opening of the new University Art Museum (now the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive) in 1970, and in 1971 Brenda Richardson curated Wiley’s first major museum exhibition, Wizdumb, which traveled from Berkeley to several museums across the country, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.
It was around this time that Wiley began to introduce a regular cast of alter egos into his performance pieces and paintings, including Mr. Unatural who was a response to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural. Wiley uses Mr. Unatural, a tall, lanky figure who wears a long fake nose and a dunce cap, to both express and disguise his own awkwardness.
From the 1990s to the present, Wiley has found inspiration in medieval art, such as alchemical texts and woodblock images, and 16th-century painters Hieronymous Bosch and Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The centrality of symbols and narratives in their work attracts Wiley, as well as their engagement with the contemporary events of their own time. Wiley in turn addresses topical issues, including the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident and the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, for example.
Wiley was born in 1937 and raised in Richland, Washington, a small community in the southeastern region of the state.
An accompanying catalog, What’s It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect, by Joann Moser, with essays by John Yau and John Hanhardt, is co-published by the University of California Press and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It is available in the BAM/PFA Museum Store and online at store.bampfa.berkeley.edu for $39.95, paperback, and $65, hardcover.
William T. Wiley and Joann Moser
Wednesday, March 17, Noon
William Wiley will be joined by Joann Moser, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and organizer of What’s It All Mean, for an informal walkthrough of the exhibition.
What’s It All Mean?
John Beebe, Bill Berkson, Wanda Corn, Jock Reynolds, Paul Schimmel
Sunday, April 25, 3–5 p.m.
What does it all mean—the captivating content and singular style of William Wiley’s art?
Artist, art historian, curator, poet, and Jungian analyst convene for a probing look at Wiley’s artistic achievement and his place in American art. Among the many facets of his work to be addressed are text as image; performance; literary influences; and Jungian imagery.
Speakers are: John Beebe, M.D., noted authority on Jungian psychology; poet and critic Bill Berkson; Wanda Corn, professor and chair, Stanford University Department of Art History; Jock Reynolds, director of the Yale University Art Gallery; and Paul Schimmel, chief curator of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.
The discussion will be moderated by BAM/PFA’s Chief Curator and Director of Programs and Collections Lucinda Barnes.
Guided tours of the exhibition are offered on selected Thursdays and Sundays. Please see the website for details: bampfa.berkeley.edu/events/education/wiley_2010. Tour guides are UC Berkeley graduate students Jadine Collingwood, Laura Janku, and Lizzy Ramhorst from the Department of History of Art, and Suzanne Li Puma from the Department of Rhetoric.
Support for the museum’s graduate student tour guide program has been generously provided by Catherine and James Koshland.
William T. Wiley and Michael Hannon
Friday, May 21, 7:30 p.m.
William Wiley and poet Michael Hannon are featured performers in Anne Colvin’s Skank Bloc Bologna Number Four, part of BAM/PFA’s Friday evening program, L@TE. Set against the backdrop of Ken Russell’s film Tommy, the penultimate iteration of Skank Bloc Bologna Number Four features Wiley on the didgeridoo while Hannon recites. Friends since the early 1980s, Wiley and Hannon have collaborated on books and inspired each other’s work; they do so again in this high-spirited, impromptu duet of music and verse.
BAM/PFA Gala Honoring William T. Wiley
Saturday, April 24
6 p.m. Cocktails and Exhibition Viewing
7:30 p.m. Dinner, Live Auction, and Special Performance
Please join us for a special celebration in honor of William T. Wiley. With the witty and idiosyncratic artist in person, this promises to be a rollicking evening! In addition to exhibition viewing and a festive dinner, the event will feature a live auction of wonderful artwork and unique travel experiences.
What’s It All Mean: Films by William T. Wiley and Friends
March 30—April 18
PFA Theater, 2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
PFA presents films by Wiley, Robert Nelson, Mike Henderson, and other kindred spirits, with Wiley in person.
Tuesday, March 30, 7:30 p.m., Films by Wiley and Friends (U.S., 1963–71). This freewheeling program features Wiley’s one solo film, the Wavelength-inspired Man’s Nature, along with two playful works by Robert Nelson that Wiley collaborated on, Plastic Haircut and Bleu Shut. (75 mins)
Sunday, April 11, 3 p.m., Films by Wiley and Robert Nelson (U.S., 1967–74). Wiley and Robert Nelson pay offhanded homage to myths and misfits, art and the art of the gag, in Deep Westurn, What Do You Talk About, The Off-Handed Jape, and The Great Blondino. (75 mins)
Sunday, April 18, 3 p.m., Wiley Selects (U.S., 1968–70). Wiley presents inventive, imaginative films by Bay Area artist Mike Henderson—Dufus!, Money, The Last Supper, and King David (made with Robert Nelson)—along with Nelson and William Allan’s rarely seen War Is Hell. (75 mins)
The presentation of What’s It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect at the Berkeley Art Museum is made possible in part by Nancy and Timothy Howes, Nancy and Joachim Bechtle, Phyllis Friedman, Charles Cowles, Gretchen and John Berggruen, Roselyne C. Swig, and the continued support of the BAM/PFA Trustees.
The exhibition is organized and circulated by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Generous support was provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the John and Maxine Belger Family Foundation, Gretchen and John Berggruen, Charles Cowles, the Cowles Charitable Trust, Sheila Duignan and Mike Wilkins, Electric Works, Sakurako and William Fisher, the Lipman Family Foundation, James and Marsha Mateyka, Arnold and Oriana McKinnon, Rita J. Pynoos, Betty and Jack Schafer, Laura and Joe Sweeney, Roselyne C. Swig, and the Tides Foundation: Art 4 Moore Fund. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.
The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is the visual arts center of the University of California, Berkeley, one of the nation’s leading research universities. BAM/PFA aims to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through contemporary and historical art and film, engaging audiences from the campus, Bay Area community, and beyond. One of the largest university art museums in the United States in both size and attendance, BAM/PFA presents fifteen art exhibitions and five hundred film programs each year. The museum’s collection of more than 15,000 works, distinguished by artistic excellence and innovation, intellectual exploration, and social commentary, includes exceptional examples of mid-twentieth-century painting, including important works by Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, Eva Hesse, and Mark Rothko, as well as historical and contemporary Asian art, early American painting, Conceptual and contemporary international art, and California and Bay Area art. The PFA film and video collection now includes the largest group of Japanese films outside of Japan, as well as impressive holdings of Soviet silents, West Coast avant-garde cinema, seminal video art, rare animation, Central Asian productions, Eastern European cinema, and international classics.
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