Chris Wiley, Dingbats @Nicelle Beauchene

JTF (just the facts): A total of 15 color photographs, displayed in custom artist frames and unmatted, and hung against white walls in the single room gallery space. All of the works are inkjet prints mounted on aluminum, with frames alternately made from fabric, vinyl flooring, faux ostrich/alligator skin, corrugated steel, colored Plexiglas, stucco, wallpaper, seashells, and insulation. Each work is sized roughly 43×30 and is available in an edition of 3. (Installation shots below.)

Comments/Context: Chris Wiley’s newest works find him extending further into the physical realm of the photographic object, using unconventional framing materials to add sculptural interest to his pictures. What emerges are whimsical hybrid forms, marrying tightly cropped textural imagery with lively three dimensional decoration. Like the dingbat fonts referenced in the show’s title, each one is like an eye catchingly graphic ornamental character.

In many ways, this body of work feels like a direct progression from his previous photographs (reviewed here), a step by step evolution in terms of conceptual refinement. The broader found textures of the earlier photographs have been cropped down/enlarged to tighter patterned surfaces here, with painted walls, latticework, bricks, and wood planks transformed into singular geometric exercises, often in fuller, brighter color. Similarly, Wiley’s understated plywood box frames from the prior series have been allowed to explode into a cacophony of textured materials, from rough stucco and corrugated steel, to vinyl flooring and striped canvas fabric. It’s like he’s taken the original ideas and consciously turned up the volume a notch or two.

This approach has rebalanced the influence of the imagery and the frame, bringing them more into equilibrium. Wiley’s straight photographs enamored with the lush details of urban texture have now been encapsulated by brash sculptural effects, intensifying the resulting combination. Like the recent works of Elad Lassry and Kate Steciw, these clever physical adornments provide additional layers of symbolism and juxtaposition (particularly when Wiley uses pre-fabbed building materials to outline decaying/broken details), breaking down the usual hung on the wall flatness of traditional photography. A strict formal exercise of turquoise wood/piping reminiscent of a color saturated Aaron Siskind becomes something altogether different when wrapped in a bold frame of scratchy pink stucco.

Part of what gives these works their vitality is the push and pull between central photographs that are moving closer and closer to formal Minimalism and end result objects that revel in unabashed tactile exuberance. Crafty preciousness is the rocky shore that awaits Wiley if he pushes these ideas to their extremes, but if he continues to keep the opposing forces in balance, the contrasts offer abundant white space for further explorations.

Collector’s POV: The works in this show are generally priced at $8500 each, with a few at $9000 or $10000, often due to the increased expense of the framing materials used. Wiley’s work has not yet reached the secondary markets, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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