Jay Wilkinson has been busy.
The Fort Worth artist has become known around town for his nontraditional installations and collaborations, working outside the sometimes staid gallery scene. As co-founder of the artists’ collective Bobby on Drums and the exhibition project Art Tooth, Wilkinson made a name for himself by cheerfully disrupting the established artist-to-collector pipeline, intent on breaking down barriers-to-entry wherever they keep good art from getting the audience it deserves. His participation in last year’s much discussed (and debated) 100 for 100: 100 Artists for 100 Dollars & Under deliberately challenged accepted notions of patronage and representation in the art world.
Now Wilkinson is bringing his spirit of good-natured iconoclasm in from the heat with his first solo exhibition, everyone poops. Some 20 canvases, painted in oil and acrylic, will be hanging at Fort Works Art through July 29.
Complete with price tags and press kits, everyone poops could be seen as a departure from some of Wilkinson’s earlier guerilla, pop-up tactics, but the affable 32-year-old is quick to clarify that, for himself and his collaborators, the goal has been to open up channels for “underground” artists — those without formal training and representation — to connect with art lovers and collectors in a way that ultimately benefits, enriches, and energizes the art community as a whole. A gallery show is the logical next step, and Wilkinson hopes that artists who make it this far commit to holding the door open for those artists coming up behind them.
He’s happy, too, to dispel the notion that he’s against formal art education. “I know it’s been said that I’m anti-MFA — I’m not against university art education at all. What I’m against is the idea that it’s the only path forward for an artist to take. There shouldn’t be a glass ceiling for artists just because they don’t have that degree.”
Wilkinson explored formal art education himself, studying at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute and UNT, ultimately deciding that the making of art was its own best education — for Wilkinson at least, technique develops from the passion to execute an idea.
The show’s title, borrowed from the well-known children’s book by Taro Gome, reflects Wilkinson’s egalitarian attitude while also emphasizing our desire to connect with one another — even if that connection begins at a base level. The title also reflects a conviction that art cannot be at its most effective when it takes itself too seriously. Neither, for that matter, can artists.
The show’s work is an extension of the artist’s interest in portraiture. Drawing from the informal photographs of his family and friends, the images are often familial and domestic but with the faces of the subjects obscured in such a way as to invite the viewer to step into the scene. These “indirect portraits,” as Wilkinson calls them, create an arresting snapshot of the isolation and internality of childhood, seen through the humor and compassion of an adult observer.
“We hurt each other,” Wilkinson said. “As human beings, that’s what we do, whether it’s intentional or not. It’s a part of love. But we can accept it — we don’t have to take it personally.”
Acknowledging the somewhat autobiographical nature of his subject matter, Wilkinson candidly explores the complexities of family relationships documented in “accidental moments.”
Beyond the sociological implications of an outsider artist breaking into the gallery scene, Wilkinson views the format of the show as an opportunity to create a collection of work with a unified theme.
“I’ve felt like I’ve been writing single songs,” he said, “but a show like this gives me the opportunity to write an entire album.”
[Editor’s note]: There will be an artist’s talk at Fort Worth Art on Fri, June 30 from 6 to 8pm, and an opening reception on Sat, July 1 from 6 to 9pm.
Thru July 29 at Fort Works Art, 2100 Montgomery St, FW. Free. 817-759-9475.