Location: Metro Pictures
Exihibiton: NYC June 22 to August 5, 2011

Prologue:  Charmaine Wheatley and I had a series of conversations about artist, B. Wurtz, because he was having a retrospective in Chelsea.  She said, "you told me about Wurtz like a year ago and I looked at his work online and was atypically into his "assemblage" sculpture so when I read in TimeOut he had a show up at Metro Pics I headed over. It was high on my list of priorities. Then I emailed you, "I went and loved it".  Then she wrote back to talk about it, but she started drawing the work she liked.  Ms.Wheatley rules in her own realm, deliberate cartooning with precise writing, attention to detail and subject that reminds me of monks quilling illustrated tomes.  She said maybe we should try to do something together about the Wurtz show. I saw the first drawings and thought, I'll try to use these black marks that come out of these buttons to keep Charmaine's pictures from touching, so people can see them better.  It's a work-in-progress and we will stick with Wurtz in the spirit of Wurtz; simply, working with material we bought at the wrong kind of store.  I can't work the layout code here worth a damn.  (Charmaine's images either shrink or explode)  Maybe some smart graphic artist will come in and fix it.  That was how it worked before, when I had a camera and it would drive people nuts, and someone took it out my hands.


Buttons, the kind we use for clothing, are one of Wurtz's earlier object elements. It's hard to avoid buttons, and for hundreds of years we've had them, and they're still here. He specializes in monuments to efficient, proven technology like tin cans, shoelaces, coat hangers. Common materials our society uses every day, every class, and taken for granted.

Wow, there is a lot of work in this show.  I thought Wurtz's work would be in one gallery room or two, but he's got the whole big box gallery. It's hot as hell in here too. I feel for the front desk people - giant walls of glass facing south, one could grow dope easy in here.  A-list galleries in Chelsea are sleek, white, gas guzzlers. Why not have ceiling fans?

Metro is a humongus fancy gallery, with a museum scale show by Feature Inc's very own B. Wurtz, International Artist of Mystery. Feature is a medium-sized gallery that has been a hothouse for talent. (talent often lured to greener pastures). Feature WAS in Chelsea but went back downtown, where vacant storefronts and mixed class neighborhoods still exist for about another 15 minutes.

B.Wurtz had an early rise along with Feature, and it's weird alien flavor, and was instantly recognized as an 'artist's' gallery.  Wurtz maintains his conceptual and material integrity to the humble degree that he's been professionally back-burnered in the fashion industry of art.  Word has it that some early work has been acquired by one of the major museums uptown.  Summer in Chelsea is not where the art market is, and rare, very good art like this, will go unseen and undersold.  We did wonder what was behind it, is he poised to become the veteran mine canary of our economic demise?

The work in the show dates back to 1970, so there is work few have seen, ever. It's also clear to me that Hudson, the owner of Feature, has been just as committed, unwavering in support of the wayfaring Wurtz, who for years labored far from sight at times, but right on course with a flotilla of handmade icons of the everyday. If there is the art issue of timing then it would be that life is computerized and complicated now, and that this work is not.

How easily the work floats like a stripped-down armada of vessels. Each work is unto itself, so thoughtfully constructed with a facile perfection of the foundation, a platform carrying bits of cargo or pulling a filmy net behind it, with a tiny flag on a wire stay or curved boom. Some of the wall pieces seemed pushy in the big room. Ms. Wheatley and I thought some of the wall work could have been thinned out.

There is a poetry here combined with humble wisdom. I think it's funny. It is monumental, but scaled precisely for a shoe string on wire, or plastic grocery bag baby smock. I can imagine people just being baffled - B. stands for Bill but he's been happy so people couldn't say if it was male or female work, it was The Work. It's somewhat odd, but I can't help but thinking that if one put it down on the grandiose pomposity of a Richard Serra beached tanker, the Wurtz crew sock pedestal still has more game, one we can keep playing. This is the art that actually fits our time on a macro level. Plain mementos of simple technology, economy, with an encoding of Orwell in our brightly lit facade of the future.



(The GBTV video interviews with Bill Wurtz add a layer or two, but I think it's straight up.)

Drawings by Charmaine Wheatley 2011 with text by Paul Hasegawa-Overacker

A graphic knowledgeable artist, Sono Osato, did indeed come in to fix my mangling of CW's images. Thank you!

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