Bill Arning Exhibitions is proud to present Wayne Gilbert: The End of The Road as our special presentation at The Outsider Art Fair in New York City, February 3rd-Feb 6th, 2022 at the Metropolitan Pavilion 125 W. 18th street New York, NY 10011 Thursday, February 3rd.
Wayne Gilbert (b1946) is a true Texas original having been active in the Houston area since the wild and wooly 80s curating, dealing, organizing spaces and creating his own extraordinary artworks. He creates stunning meditations of the primal stuff of life and death using human ash as his primary artistic medium.
When I arrived as museum professional to Houston in 2009 my museum’s senior curator Toby Kamps knew of my alternative-art lineage. Unlike most museum officials I had a tendency to favor works that would upset sensitive souls. He alerted me to Houston-based Wayne Gilbert’s importance. During an introductory lunch with Gilbert I met a confident artist who knew himself to be a brave and unique visual practitioner engaging the biggest human concerns. Gilbert asked almost innocently if the reason he had remained obscure outside of Texas was because he had chosen to remain based in Houston or because he used dead people as an art medium. I was sure it was a little of both I decided he was due to receive a serious consideration not only outside Texas, but globally.
Wayne has a relationship with a funeral home that gives him unclaimed left behind boxes of ash. He mixes the ash with a gel medium and uses a palette knife to spread the material into its form and shape. It is important to know that each of the various earth tone colors is unique to the person in the box. It appears that each of us have our own earth tone color. He then decides on the image, always focused on his iconography or mortality, which one can argue is always the substance of great art. From the painted word “Intercourse” the act that starts the process that leads to being born and therefore inevitably dying. He depicted the symbols of the world religions interlocked, the mental constructs that help us mitigate the fear of the inevitable. Several works also remind us of the Whitmanesque poetry of having one’s own human remains become the stuff of new plants, essentially allowing us to be reborn into new life.
Wayne Gilbert, midway through his 70s is active curating, running a gallery in Houston Heights called G Spot and constantly painting. There have been scores of articles about him and one documentary film. He has written a detailed statement about why human remains attracted him.
He has no illusions about his path in art knowing that most people would not choose to live with them in their homes he felt compelled to return repeatedly to the most primal material, life and death as substance and content of his art. Gilbert’s art is not for everyone and I have been rebuffed by many with whom I have tried to share my enthusiasm for this extraordinary work, but for those with a healthy understanding of the inexorable interwoven nature of death within and throughout life few artists have ever matched his extraordinary achievements.