- Opening Reception: September 17th 2010, 7-9pm
The Box is happy to present the second exhibition of Wally Hedrick (1928-2003). This exhibition will further explore the political and satirical qualities of Wally Hedrick’s paintings seen in our first exhibition, War Room, in spring 2008. This exhibit will include pieces from the early 1960s through to 2000, with many from the 1980s, highlighting some of his more obscure works. The scale of many of these paintings is large, most measuring between 8 and 10 feet tall, filling the space both literally and figuratively. Each painting holds intense, intricate imagery, with references ranging from art history iconography to the symbolic power of the sexual body with integrations of his personal relationships and passions scattered throughout.
Two pieces in the exhibition titled Susan Darby of the Church of God with Signs Following, 1962 and www.com (Wiggy With Wings), 2000 were painted nearly 40 years apart, yet appear to be of the same classical angel figure. The titles of these pieces reference two women in Hedricks’ life, Susan Darby, a muse in the art and psychedelic music scene of Northern California in the early 1960s and Wiggy, the nickname of his longtime girlfriend. The autobiographical references give the viewer a glimpse into Hedrick’s world while withholding any visual reference of the actual women. With this the angel becomes both an idyllic and a realistic figure. The execution of these two paintings also reveals the stylistic tendencies of the 1960s and 2000s. In Susan Darby Church of God with Sign Following, the figure is done in a loose, expressive technique with rough edges. In contrast, www.com is the same angel figure done in precise half tone reproduction of a printed image. With its digital-like quality www.com is modern in its tone, while Susan Darby Church of God with Sign Following invokes with the unencumbered spirit of the early 1960s. These paintings expose a part of Hedrick’s art practice, in which he continuously referenced and played with various iconic figures and symbols, allowing him to interlace his interpersonal life with his external interests at different periods in his life.
In our previous exhibition of Wally Hedrick we showed a group of pieces from his Vietnam Series including War Room, 1967-2002. Painting black over existing paintings and denying viewers of color and imagery, Hedrick’s Vietnam Series makes a strong protest against war. With this elimination Hedrick negates the glorification of war. In our current exhibition Hedrick’s strong political stance is again revealed. Two paintings in this exhibition reference his protest to the exceedingly violent apartheid struggle in 1980s South Africa. The two pieces A Part Died/Phulsmate, 1985/86 and Amandal Ngwethu!, 1986 both show strong representations of anger against the degradation of the ‘non-white’ populations of South Africa.
A Part Died/Phulsmate, the largest of all the paintings in the exhibition measuring approximately 114 x 156,” depicts a large-scale bust of a white woman reaching back to bleed a black African continent that has transformed on the left into a large, limp penis. The blond haired, blue eyed figured is draining the power of the black man, making him powerless and weak. In the background of the painting is a chessboard, again exploring the powers of black versus white. Mixed into this game is a reproduction of one of Hedrick’s early paintings, Hermetic Image (1961), along with a copied image of his Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute; again with these references we see connections of his interpersonal life to his external political passions. Amandal Ngwethul! also depicts a male phallus, only here it’s erect and with what looks to be a female sculpture floating over it. Out of the figure’s mouth are the words ‘Amandal Ngwethul!’ (a popular cry of apartheid protests that roughly translates to ‘Power to the People’) and she is holding a sign that says “All I want is your swimming pool and to fuck your daughters.” These two statements are waging for power over another race. While one cannot for sure decipher what “All I want is your swimming pool and to fuck you daughter” really means, the implication is that one of the populations, seemingly the ‘non-whites,’ want to take over the houses of the rich white population, usurping power over those coasting off privilege. Both of these paintings are confrontational and surreal, while holding a real and powerful truth: Apartheid of the South African ‘non-white’ populations was brutal. Hedrick was not afraid to face this head on.
Hedrick, who was part of the infamous Sixteen Americans exhibition at MOMA in 1959, also played a pivotal role in the in the Beat movement in Northern California. He was married to Jay Defeo for 10 years in 1950s/60s, a time of creative preeminence for both artists, with Defeo painting The Rose, 1958-64 while Hedrick founded the Six Gallery where Allen Ginsberg first read Howl. Hedrick has gained some acknowledgment since our last exhibition, including being part of two group shows, I.G.Y curated by Todd Levin at Marianne Boesky gallery in NYC (May 22-July 30, 2010) and Sunless curated by Walhead Beshty at the Thomas Dane Gallery in London (September 2-October 2, 2010).