Ivanna C. Goodarts "Representational Art Rant"

Not so Wishy Washy: Charles Wish

Yesterday’s entry I asked the question, “Can an artist make good work by copying the style of another more successful artist?”  Strangely enough, Charles Wish fits in perfectly with the topic of my last blog and I think looking at his work that the answer is a resounding “yes.”

Wish contacted me with the tantalizing subject heading in his e-mail “What do you think of this crap.”  He actually was inviting me to spank him, but, my paddle has gone a bit flaccid when faced with such fine stuff.  Joy Hakanson Colby’s July review awarded his solo exhibit "Omerica" last July at Cpop with a grade of “B+.”  I think she was right on.  You may want to read her latest review of his work in the September CPop show "Static Cinema."

Wish riffs, improvises, and plays with some masters.  He especially plays on the work of regionalist Grant Wood.  If you’ve looked at the January issue of “Art in America” you can see how timely his work is.  Wish updates the imagery and iconography pertinently.

Grant Wood's "Victorian Survival"

Charles Wish's improvisation.

Wish’s Duchamp/Kahlo hybrid update of Grant Wood’s “Victorian Survival” is a strong but slightly flawed painting.  Although a pretty good technician, his rendering of drapery, the anatomy of hands and tonal structure need a bit of work.  With work this tight, you really need to iron those bugs out to make it float.  His rendering may be hampered by the fact that he works in acrylic rather than oil.  Nevertheless, iconographically speaking his work couldn’t be stronger.

An American Hannah Hoch, Wish was dubbed a “Surregionist” by Detroit’s CPop Gallery’s director Rick Manore.  Wish shares in some of the same strategies that the Dadaists of the early 20th century, with the main difference that he renders his work a lot better than Duchamp could’ve.  Like Hoch and Duchamp Wish works with a sense of humor parsing art and film history with pop culture.  Part of the joy of looking at his work is figuring out the rebus like visual riddle.

Charles Wish's "Psycho"

Grant Wood's  “Parson’s Weem’s Fable”

Take for instance his painting “Psycho” from the “Static Cinema” group show.  Same flaws formally, but, he’s got his movie and art historical references down.  Hitchcock’s film “Psycho” is almost considered true history by most Americans, somewhere along the same lines of the propagandistic legend of George Washington’s cherry tree.  However, Wish pops our cherry in transgressive but funny as hell way.  Here Wish uses the skeleton of “Parson’s Weem’s Fable” by Grant Wood and turns it into a reel (mispelled on purpose) "skeleton in our closet."  Washington's celebrity is equated along the same lines as Norman Bates’s.  Parson Weems and Hitchcock are both great directors and tall tale tellers and I guess, so is Charles Wish.

It's also worth visiting this link to read more about Wish: http://www.adrian.edu/news/stub_btwn05.php

Charles Wish solo exhibit at CPop is full of odd twists on symbols, images -
Charles Wish's bizarre paintings communicate through unexpected symbols, iconic images. July 2, 2005

Author: Joy Hakanson Colby Detroit News, The (MI)
Crop circles, bosomy goddesses, the Quaker Oats man and landscapes that resemble reclining nudes. Welcome to the world of California artist Charles Wish, who is featured in a one-man exhibit at CPop Gallery.

Wish's painting vocabulary is a rich stew of signs, symbols and iconic images gleaned from Eastern religions and American regionalist art represented by such painters as Thomas Hart Benton and Grant Wood. For instance, he takes the familiar twosome in Wood's "American Gothic" and gives them each a third eye, which symbolizes enlightenment.

He colors Tara, the protectress goddess of Tibet, green and enthrones her on a farm tractor. A white Tara is mounted high on an electrical apparatus and the fields below her are marked with Hindu symbols.

Wish's biblical Eve regards with interest a fat green serpent with a goofy cartoon face. A couple of roosters and remains of a fence give Eve's otherwise exotic landscape the flavor of rural America.

Surreal is the word for this mixture of images, prompting CPop's director Rick Manore to call the work "surregionalism."

According to the artist's statement, his paintings are an attempt to show that a diverse America can hold fast to its strong regional traditions while staying open to the richness of foreign cultures. With most of the paintings, he succeeds at the challenge he has set for himself.

But Wish's drawings are another story. While beautifully executed, they lack the energy of his paintings. They tend to be bland, sometimes even cute.

Wish's art reflects his background. A latchkey kid born in 1971, he roamed Los Angeles streets and the rural landscapes of the San Gabriel and San Fernando valleys in his formative years. An accident at age 13 crushed his skull, leaving him with a metal plate in his head. After graduating from the University of Arizona in 1993, he spent four years in a Hindu monastery.

It was in the monastery that he says he learned to connect with remote cultures while preserving his love for America's charm.

Although he's shown often in Los Angeles groups, the CPop show is his first solo. Two of the main paintings disappeared en route. But what's in the gallery indicates he's an artist bound for a solid career.

'Omerica: Charles Wish'


CPop Gallery
4160 Woodward Ave., Detroit
Through July 16
Call (313) 833-9901 for hours

CPop exhibit is movies without the big screen, Detroit News, September 9, 2005
 Author:  Joy Hakanson Colby
The instructions were simple: Pick a movie and interpret it. The results from a gang of mostly Metro Detroit artists, titled "Static Cinema," are definitely worth a visit to CPop Gallery.
While there are several highlights in this collection, the show stopper is the stunning installation Tom Thewes Jr. created for "Metropolis," the 1926 German fantasy of a futuristic city where technology has gone awry.

The central image is a female robot rendered in metallic silver. She is surrounded by an environment of five small paintings along with men's neckties painted and mounted on charred two-by-fours. These elements play off each other, each contributing a source of energy.

Across the gallery is California artist Charles Wish's interpretation of Alfred Hitchcock's notorious 1960 flick "Psycho." He dominated his painting with an unmistakable likeness of Hitchcock and placed the head of Norman Bates (played by Anthony Perkins) on a child's body.

Photographer Tim Day tackled "The Empire Strikes Back," the 1980 sequel to "Star Wars." He balanced on metal bars a dramatic version of a helmeted Darth Vader wearing sneakers.

Niagara tackled a 1956 spellbinder about an evil child who causes several deaths. The artist showed a gun-toting moppet with the legend "All girls come from 'The Bad Seed' " lettered on top of the pink and pinker canvas.

Chris Gustafson photographed Niagara as the model for his poster illustrating "Valley of the Dolls," the 1967 movie version of Jacqueline Susann's trashy novel. The film was terrible but the artist's pictures are classy.

Jerry Vile's contribution to the CPop film festival shows Orson Wells' 1941 classic "Citizen Kane" as a bug-eyed creature painted with foam insulation. He wrote, "Rosebud is my (bleeped) sled" below the image.

The Detroit photographer, who bills himself as Ewolf, commented on films depicting African-American culture by placing a black male doll in a box. When a knob is turned, film titles like "The Color Purple" and "Boyz N the Hood" pop up and the doll spins to represent Malcolm X turning over in his grave.

"Static Cinema" is the next best thing to seeing a good movie.  Caption:
California artist Charles Wish's "Psycho" is an interpretation of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 movie.