William T. Wiley is one of the most influential American artists to come out of the San Francisco Bay Area. His third solo exhibition at Hosfelt Gallery reflects the importance of what is perhaps the least known aspect of his output—sculpture—through a range of works spanning the last six decades.
Defined and unified by a visual vocabulary of repeating motifs combined with cunning word play, Wiley’s is an open-ended investigation into the moral issues of the global citizen. He masterfully assembles found objects and common materials upon which he inscribes enigmatic malapropisms, puns and double entendre, crafting strange objects with uncanny psychological weight.
But the “gee-shucksness” of the media and frontier-plainness of the poetry are the spoons-full-of-sugar employed by a philosopher/poet of the most sophisticated order. Wiley’s riddle-filled assemblages, like his paintings on canvas and paper, are the empathetic musings of one particularly tuned into the absurdity of the human condition.
William T. Wiley was born in 1937 and moved to San Francisco in 1956 to attend the San Francisco Art Institute (then the California School of Fine Arts). He completed his MFA in 1962, then taught at UC Davis, where he, along with Wayne Thiebaud, Robert Arneson, Roy De Forest, and Manuel Neri, transformed what was known as an agricultural college into one of the most important art schools of the 1960s and 1970s. In 2009 the Smithsonian American Art Museum mounted a retrospective of Wiley’s work that traveled to the Berkeley Art Museum in 2010. In 2013 Wiley was the subject of a major solo exhibition at the Fondazione Marconi in Milan. During the 2013 Venice Biennale, Wiley’s work was included in the Prada Foundation’s remake of the legendary exhibition, When Attitude Becomes Form, originally curated by Harald Szeemann at the Bern Kunsthalle, Switzerland in 1969. Wiley’s paintings, works on paper, sculptures and films are in the permanent collections of prominent public and private collections worldwide.