Not so Wishy Washy: Charles Wish

Kenny Mencher, 2005

Yesterday’s entry I asked the question, “Can an artist make good work by copying the style of another more successful artist?” Strangely enough, Charles Wish fits in perfectly with the topic of my last blog and I think looking at his work that the answer is a resounding “yes.” 

Wish contacted me with the tantalizing subject heading in his e-mail “What do you think of this crap.” He actually was inviting me to spank him, but, my paddle has gone a bit flaccid when faced with such fine stuff. Joy Hakanson Colby’s July review awarded his solo exhibit "Omerica" last July at Cpop with a grade of “B+.” I think she was right on. You may want to read her latest review of his work in the September CPop show "Static Cinema."

Wish riffs, improvises, and plays with some masters. He especially plays on the work of regionalist Grant Wood. If you’ve looked at the January issue of “Art in America” you can see how timely his work is. Wish updates the imagery and iconography pertinently.

Wish’s Duchamp/Kahlo hybrid update of Grant Wood’s “Victorian Survival” is a strong but slightly flawed painting. Although a pretty good technician, his rendering of drapery, the anatomy of hands and tonal structure need a bit of work. With work this tight, you really need to iron those bugs out to make it float. His rendering may be hampered by the fact that he works in acrylic rather than oil. Nevertheless, iconographically speaking his work couldn’t be stronger.

An American Hannah Hoch, Wish was dubbed a “Surregionist” by Detroit’s CPop Gallery’s director Rick Manore. Wish shares in some of the same strategies that the Dadaists of the early 20th century, with the main difference that he renders his work a lot better than Duchamp could’ve. Like Hoch and Duchamp Wish works with a sense of humor parsing art and film history with pop culture. Part of the joy of looking at his work is figuring out the rebus like visual riddle.

Take for instance his painting “Psycho” from the “Static Cinema” group show. Same flaws formally, but, he’s got his movie and art historical references down. Hitchcock’s film “Psycho” is almost considered true history by most Americans, somewhere along the same lines of the propagandistic legend of George Washington’s cherry tree. However, Wish pops our cherry in transgressive but funny as hell way. Here Wish uses the skeleton of “Parson’s Weem’s Fable” by Grant Wood and turns it into a reel (mispelled on purpose) "skeleton in our closet." Washington's celebrity is equated along the same lines as Norman Bates’s. Parson Weems and Hitchcock are both great directors and tall tale tellers and I guess, so is Charles Wish.