The retrospective exhibition of the work of William T. Wiley that this publication accompanies is the first to be organized since 1979, when Wiley Territory opened at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Thirty years later, What's It All Mean: Willliam T. Wiley in Retrospect, considers the artist's entire career (including films) through 2008. The art of William Wiley (b. 1937) has stood the test of time in the face of changing styles, successive movements, critical theories, and passing fashion. Wiley's self-deprecating humor and sense of the absurd make his art accessible even to those who do not comprehend his more ambiguous ideas, allusions, narratives, private symbols, and layers of meaning. His liberal use of puns makes more palatable his deadly serious commentary on war, pollution, global warming, racial tension, and other threats to contemporary civilization. Wiley is best known as a leading California artist, whose influence and importance in the San Francisco Bay area are well established. This exhibition and catalogue affirm his significance as an artist of national stature whose accomplishment resonates well beyond the region in which he has chosen to live and the time period when he first achieved recognition.
Copub: Smithsonian American Art Museum
Joann Moser has been Senior Curator of Graphic Arts at the Smithsonian American Art Museum since 1986. Her most recent publication is Graphic Masters, a catalogue of drawings from the museum's collection. John Yau is a poet, critic, and freelance curator. His recent books include A Thing Among Things:The Art of Jasper Johns. John G. Hanhardt is Consulting Senior Curator for Film and Media Arts at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
“Mr. Wiley's work is unlike any other in recent art, a visual analog to the stream-of-consciousness strain in 20th-century literature. Likening Mr. Wiley to Virginia Woolf or James Joyce is dicey, of course, but his swirling cornucopias of images, words and associations are every bit as intoxicating, operating beyond their medium, in the subconscious. He is less a contemporary artist than a national treasure.”—Wall Street Journal
“Elegant. . . . Provocative essays by outstanding scholars.”—Jonah Raskin The Bohemian
“At last we have a book that reveals the enigmatic genius of William Wiley, an artist who has persisted in these cynical times to probe the painful and preposterous aspects of our society with his own blend of satiric wit, compassion, and poetry.”—Susan Landauer, author of The San Francisco School of Abstract Expressionism
“William T. Wiley's multifaceted art career has spanned nearly fifty years. A consummate draftsman, inveterate punster, cultural commentator, musician, storyteller, and seeker of truth, he navigates the complexities of our world with a wit and wisdom all his own.”—Constance Lewallen, Independent Curator and Scholar