Jerry Wilkerson: New Works
Place: Randall Gallery
Address: 999 North 13th Street
Duration: through April 21
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10-5.
IF THE NEW WORKS by Jerry Wilkerson are not indicative of artistic growth, they are certainly signals of a remarkably creative and versatile and adaptable intelligence.
For what Wilkerson has done in this show — in the most vivid part of it anyway — is to take his style of painting and drawing (a sort of hip, 20th century pointillist technique) and his vocabulary of images (mostly things that can be eaten or smoked or the vessels or packages that contain such things) and has transferred them to the quilt. Yes, the quilt.
By now, no one should be surprised to find a quilt in an art gallery. Once humble and utilitarian bed coverings, quilts in the last 20 years have received the veneration of decorators and curators alike, and much of this veneration is entirely justified.
Quilts are at once useful and beautiful, and on the frames of some skillful quilters they came alive with pattern and color and texture and, like magic, floated into the atmosphere of art.
But like a lot of things that wobble on the line between craft and art, quilts captured the popular imagination and were taken over by commercial manufacturers.
For a while, it appeared that every- thing that did not move was being covered with quilts or quiltish things. What had been something special and singular became something mass-produced and tiresome and tacky, especially when run up in double-knit polyester.
Wilkerson, who was born in Texas and no doubt has quilt memories made long before these coverings became fashionable or mass-produced, has given the quilt form new life as a medium for his art.
These quilts (which were pieced together and quilted by skilled quilters from Wilkerson’s designs, using blocks silk-screened with his familiar images of things such as apples and saltines and Camel cigarette pack- ages) delight the eye and stir up the intellect.
Some of them are simply pretty — my favorite quilt, in fact, is made of a repeated image of a cup of the old Spode “Flying Cloud” pattern. Others are complex and optically tricky and geometrically sophisticated. But what I found most appealing about them is the cunning and affecting way this artist repeated the old, familiar images he has played with and puzzled over for years in a fresh fashion, using this form that is at once old and new.
Along with the quilts in this exhibition are a number of prints that show Wilkerson continuing to make one-dimensional investigations of food and flowers, some of which he has put out in the rain. Also shown is one large painting (acrylic on canvas) of a garden with some delightfully exuberant day lilies, a quilted pizza pie and a three-dimensional Camel cigarette package.