Chris Wiley, Technical Compositions @Nicelle Beauchene

JTF (just the facts): A total of 13 color photographs, framed in  custom plywood frames, and hung in the small single room gallery space. All of the works are archival inkjet prints, made in 2012. The works come in two sizes: 26×18 (in editions of 4+2AP) and 41×27 (also in editions of 4+2AP). There are 4 large prints and 9 small prints in the show. (Installation shots at right.)

Comments/Context: Chris Wiley’s photographs of found architectural geometries are executed with an exacting sense of compositional rigor. They are strict and precise, the juxtapositions of textures and shapes deftly controlled to maximize formal contrast in a two dimensional plane. While this nothing particularly new in photography, Wiley has taken this idea to near its logical extreme, crafting images with an undeniable affinity for visual structure, plucked from the chaos of city streets and pared down with almost mathematical austerity.

The best of the images on view here are a patchwork of competing patterns and textures. Zig-zag stairs contrast with the smooth concrete of a nearby wall, which is punctuated by the slash of a handrail and its shadow, abutting the corrugated metal of a security door. It is a symphony in muted grey, with sharp edges and uncompromising severity. Similarly, a jumble of discarded materials becomes a sculptural puzzle: wavy cement slabs hold down a flecked orange carpet pad, which is covered by blue tarps and intersected by rusty green pipes. Other images are built on the meticulous alignment of lines and angles, with just a hint of wear and tear. Brick walls intersect with plywood squares, gridded orange tiles come loose, and curved arcs in yellow and brown converge into stripes. Large interlocking tiles give way to fluted columns and finally to a rough expanse of light blue paint.

If these photographs were printed large and mounted as glossy objects, you might for a moment mistake them as a conceptual product of 1980s Dusseldorf. But the bright sunlight in the streets and the striped plywood frames upend that preliminary hypothesis; so perhaps they are distant relatives of some of Lewis Baltz’ 1970s prototype works or Anthony Hernandez’ tile walls, or just the extension of formal photographic ideas that have been around for years. All in, I liked the feeling of ordered delight in these photographs, and of the complex wonder of man-made surfaces being seen again for the first time.

Collector’s POV: The prints in this show are priced as follows. The 26×18 prints are $3000 each and the 41×27 prints are $6000 each. Wiley’s work has not yet entered the secondary markets, so gallery retail is likely the only option for interested collectors at this point.

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JTF (just the facts): Published in 2024 by Poursuite Editions (here). Softcover, 21 x 29 cm, 144 pages, with 107 black-and-white and color reproductions. Includes an essay by Clément Ghys ... Read on.

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