Jerry Wilkerson: Paintings
Where: Atrium Gallery, Old Post Office Building, 815 Olive Street
When: Through Jan. 9
Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday; Saturday, noon-5
THE WORK OF Jerry Wilkerson is well known to denizens of the Central West End. Wilkerson is the creator of the trademark hamburger painting at Tom’s Bar and Grill.
His work is a wonderful mixture of Seurat and pop art. He has achieved mastery at creating representation with dots. Like Seurat, he breaks images into tiny elements of pure color, the coloristic components of light. Although his subject matter often has a pop art flavor — right out of his own refrigerator in trademark packages — his dots do not refer to the dots of pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. Lichtenstein makes the mechanical dots of photo-offset printing.
Wilkerson filters every New York seltzer bottle and K.F.C. pack through art history. In this exhibit alone, he pays homage to: Van Gogh in a study of one of the Dutch artist’s self-portraits; Marsden Hartley in a lobster; Cezanne in a still life; Warhol in a soup can; and Georgia O’Keeffe in a representation of a poppy. And “K.F.C. With Olives” certainly recalls Lichtenstein.
Just because Wilkerson packs his pictures with references to artists he loves doesn’t make his work good. What gives his work its art is his sense of composition, light and color.
A favorite work of mine is a still life of “Pears,” closer to the work of Cezanne than the painting titled “Still Life After Cezanne.” Although small in size and mundane in subject matter, this work achieves monumentality.
Another beautiful work is “Lilly,” a study of white in a calla lily. Because Wilkerson’s color is so rich, so sparkling in light, the flower has blue, purple and yellow dots in its white. It almost gives off an aura.
Most of Wilkerson’s work looks at the effect of different types of artificial light. “Cross and Candle” gives off the soft, warm light of a flame. By contrast, “Light Bulb,” a gentle reference to Claes Oldenburg’s giant fixtures, gives off cooler light from a bare bulb. Fluorescent light breaks down the figures in “Refrigerated Still Life With Film” into the coolest light of all.
Even an ordinary image of a “Houseplant,” a begonia in a blue and white Chinese cache pot, achieves a timeless quality when seen through the filter of Wilkerson’s style. It is elegantly delineated, in a kind of House and Garden magazine prettiness, yet Wilkerson’s sparkling dots and careful composition elevate it beyond the mundane.