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David Wetzl @ JAYJAY

"Inner Mod Animal Dreams Green-Mindedly", 2008-09, acrylic and in on duralar, mounted on wood w/plexi-glass and rubber, placed on a vinyl digital print, 60 x 80"

For years, David Wetzl has packed more imagery per square foot into his paintings than almost any artist I can think of. His finish-fetish, PoMo mash-ups, rich in art-historical references, illustrate his obsession with Ken Wilber, the pop philosopher of human consciousness. Wilber’s big idea — that every belief system that ever existed still operates inside of us, driving the tide of evolution forward — is a compelling one, and it’s had a strong hold on Wetzl’s thinking, as evidenced in the title of this show, Holonic Ego and Involution Maps.

Lately, Wetzl also seems to be listening to Thoreau’s advice about simplifying. The slick surfaces and hot colors that once defined his labyrinthine paintings are gone, leaving the grid as a reoccurring motif and an organizing principle. His works are still incredibly complex, but not quite as head-spinningly so as before. And where he previously invested countless hours building up layers of varnished paint to achieve kaleidoscopic, deep-space effects in his wood-panel paintings, he now supplements analog methods with digital tools to blend painted images with photographs which he prints on vinyl.
"Internal Green Screen Witness", 2009, acrylic on Bristol board, mounted on wood, placed on vinyl digital print, 60 x 48"
 
They appear in several guises: as stand-alone pieces, as pictures on walls that are painted to look like backdrops and as backdrops themselves for other elaborately framed paintings and drawings. These add-ons, when mounted directly atop the vinyl sheets, create pictures-within-pictures that convey, in a neat physical metaphor, the artist’s message about how human belief systems accrue and bend over time to create new (and presumably higher) forms of consciousness. 
 
They are at once diagrammatic, schematic, photographic and hauntingly totemic.
 
Inner Mod Animal Dreams Green Mindedly is a good example. It’s a photo-on-vinyl of palm fronds that has superimposed upon it, digital images of painted cell forms. Affixed to that is another image of a cartoon-faced pig frolicking with molecular structures and geometric shapes. It’s stationed on an amoeba-shaped slab of wood which is attached (in a nice minimalist touch) by screws to a piece of green plexiglass. This overlay casts a warm, almost-psychedelic glow, and it makes the interaction between the two elements feel like an eco-fantasy: of science as mankind’s brother.
 
It’s a longstanding theme of Wetzl’s. Years before the component parts of PCs become the visual lingua franca of the Wired-worshipping digeratti, Wetzl was making paintings that prominently featured printed circuit boards. For a spell, they receded a bit, but they’re now back en masse, dovetailing nicely with the current trend of using maps to represent idiosyncratic world views.   Here, seven small-scale, acrylic-and-ink works on panel situate humans (or their icon equivalents) in white-washed monochromatic “landscapes” built around grid formations that, in Wetzl’s scheme, represent the diminution of matter and the ascendance of artificial intelligence. 
"Burning Past the Modmind Hurts-But it is Holonically Essential-Otherwise We Are All Done", 2008-09, acyrlic, colored pencil and ink on duralar, mounted on wood with plexi-glass, placed on cloth backdrop, 72" x 96"; "The Soaring Po-Mod Signs, Link Effervescently, with the Integrated-Mind Module, 2009, acrylic and ink on Bristol board, 17" x 14"
 
Internal Fruitions Generate the Birth of Outer Screens is less specific; it veers toward pure abstraction but it still carries the idea of primitive forms evolving. The work consists of a large wood panel surrounded by four digital prints on a yellow wall. The panel portion of the piece is divided into squares and rectangles. Their colors resemble those of TV test patterns, but the overall texture, in a rather amazing transmogrification, looks, at a distance, like fabric embossed with floral shapes. Fittingly, the surrounding prints resemble small CRT screens; each is packed with abstract and objective elements that allude, directly or obliquely, to some portion of the Wetzlian cosmology. In another large-scale, multi-part wall piece, Burning Past the Modmind Hurts-But it is Holonically Essential-Otherwise We Are All Done, Wetzl takes the opposite tactic: he uses actual fabric as the backdrop for a wood-panel piece to simulate paint and thereby extend our perception of the work, from a mere rectangular to something that continues to grow beyond its ostensible edges. 
"Portrait of D-Dub; the Po-Mod Detective in Search of the Needlesss, and Rampantly Single-Minded, Modernist Juggernauts", 2009, acrylic and ink on Bristol board, 14" x 17"
 
While Wetzl has refined his methods and expanded his craft, his ambition to organize the anarchy of human history into a logical progression through painterly juxtaposition remains intact. You may disagree with his cheery forecast, but you can’t help but marvel at the inventiveness he brings to the task. You may also realize that in some measure he’s been prescient. Paintings like Internal Green Screen Witness, a large-scale work that harkens back to his diagrammatic works of the mid-1990s, accurately forecasts the sort of views that are available to everyone via Google satellite maps. 
 
The real question begged (but not answered) by Wetzl’s work is: what, if any, spiritual value do these forms of desktop transcendence provide? We’re definitely changing. Whether we’re evolving into something better is a question that Wetzl’s work leaves unanswered. 
 
–DAVID M. ROTH
 
Holonic Ego and Involution Maps at JAYJAY through December 23, 2009. 

 

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