The Doodle Dudes
The patterns of Andy Moon Wilson and Bean
by Felicia Feaster, Creative Loafing, December 5, 2007
Andy Moon Wilson and the artist currently known as "Bean" (aka Ben Worley and Bean Summer) are kindred spirits on several fronts. Both deal with pattern and repetition, and both have taken that vague and wily thing we call "culture" and whipped it into a vivid, manic, often fun-to-drink brew. For those interested in such behind-the-scenes doings, Wilson and Bean also share an ally in Lloyd Benjamin, the artist/gallery owner and jack-of-all-trades. Benjamin framed Bean's show Encyclopedia Studies. And Benjamin's gallery, Get This!, is Wilson's showcase for his first solo show in Atlanta, Line Colonies.
But where Wilson and Bean most significantly differ is in technique. In profoundly low-tech fashion, Wilson draws on paper in ink, while Bean uses digital photography and computers. It is a gulf between them demarcated by lo-fi versus high-tech, pen versus keyboard, hands-on doodle versus computer-mediated print. Wilson designs high-end rugs, a vocation played out in his richly patterned and intricate drawings. And Bean books bands for local nightclubs while attending graduate school at Georgia State, which may explain his willingness to try many different things at once in his art.
In Line Colonies Wilson presents art about, in many ways, a subversion of work in the time clock and W-2 sense.
In "The Dude Project‚" Wilson combines drawings and text into a manly Note to Self. There is humping. There are knives. There are monster trucks. There is midget racing and ping-pong – all addressed in drawings done on 120 yellow Post-It notes. That most utilitarian of memory aids becomes subverted in the self-conscious fan-boy kookiness of Wilson's project. Wilson's investigation and indulging of "lad" urges in many ways parallels Saltworks artist Michael Scoggins' manic, boyish drawings of soldiers, warfare and forts.
Wilson's thumbed nose to Big Daddy continues in "Business," with 140 business cards face down against the wall like traitors awaiting the firing squad. Wilson uses the back of the cards for carefully executed architectural follies and elaborate mechanical systems rendered in often achingly precise pen-and-ink drawings. More refined than mere doodles, the drawings suggest fanciful daydreams and visions of some mythic place beyond the dull corridors of business.
The overriding fixation of Wilson's show is the doodle: distracted or angry, whimsical or unconscious drawing. But that effect yields different results in Line Colonies. The doodle is crude and compulsive in a less engaging series of drawings on graph paper called Gridlock‚ which, like some of Wilson's other work, can move from conceptual Rorschach test to opaque and uninspired scribbling and code-making.
The best work in Line Colonies is generally not in the dense ink labyrinths. It is in Wilson's marvelous flying machines, The Floating World Series, and the exquisite Blue Buildings, in which mania and compulsion become lighter than air.
The doodle goes lyrical and the dude sprouts wings in these flights of architectural fancy. Those two bodies of work meld a mishmash of architectures: gothic, pagodas, onion domes, froufrou Victorian, steeples, ridiculous buildings and imposing ones, into a structural lacework of imaged realities. Obsessions mutate into curlicued, ornamental imaginative forms that marry candy-box sweetness and obsession-made-object.
Both utopian and megalomaniacal, the pastiche buildings and frilly flying machines reference past decorative styles, but say something about our own times where dreams have veered off the rails into a no-man's-land of madness.
Bean is an obsessive of sorts, too, in his archiving of the outmoded. Rather than the distracted, dum-dee-dum doodle, it is the World Book Encyclopedia: bound, authoritative and unadorned by 21st-century political correctness that serves as his muse. Bean says that unlike the high-falutin' Encyclopædia Britannica, it was the heavy-on-the-visuals 1957 World Book Encyclopedia that really hooked him. Bean's exhibition at Beep Beep Gallery, Encyclopedia Studies, is drawn from his ongoing effort to use all 25,000 images in the 18-volume encyclopedia, in this show starting at the very beginning with the letter "A."
Assembled like film strips or scrolls, the repeated images of animals and athletes, ants and atoms from the World Book form a 20th-century taxonomy of just what 1957 deemed worthy of inclusion in our assembled human knowledge. As Bean observes, that translates to more pages devoted to airplanes than to Africa. Bean takes these dated images and through the wonders of contemporary technology speeds them up to the frenzied pace of our own visual culture.
In some works, the overlay of images results in unsettling palimpsests, like the ghost images of soldiers that can be glimpsed beneath illustrations of military ranks and insignia in "Letter A-Overlay Study-13." Bean's techniques at times parallel Soviet filmmakers such as Sergei Eisenstein, who theorized that colliding images in montage can generate meaning.
Both Bean and Wilson have a tendency to throw too many ideas and variations on a theme out there‚ an idea perhaps best illustrated by Wilson's dead-end "Megadoodle" or the video piece accompanying Bean's prints, rather than presenting a clean, consistent thread. Some of the work feels riffy and tentative, though both shows have enough going on to assure us that too few ideas will never be either artist's problem.
Andy Moon Wilson: Business - March 2007
Art That Works - January 2005
Andy Moon Wilson: Business
by Kriston Capps, Washington City Paper, March 15, 2007
ANDY MOON WILSON is not a guy you want to share a cubicle with: Judging from his doodles, he'd just as likely plant a stapler in your forehead as hand it to you. Violence is a major theme in the artist's art anomie, but the real business of "Business"—his solo show at Curator's Office—is an OCD aversion to blank space, whether it be on the back of a business card or behind someone's eyes. The artist lashes out at corporate culture from an unexpected angle: His scribbles aren't about conspicuous consumption but rather the way that industry consumes people through the little formal indignities that a polite, handshaking society insists on. Wilson expresses this horror vacui on more than 1,050 business-card canvases, broadcast directly from the id in short-attention-span bursts. There are hobgoblins, battle-axes, and TIE Fighters; weapons ballistic and melee; tentacles, exoskeletons, and any other category of xenomorphia. But architectural abstractions and curious patterned hieroglyphics raise the grade level of the project—which is, in fact, a great deal sharper than much of what passes for comic pop art. The gallery has also helped by installing Wilson's work in seven zones, each a different theme and distinguished by the shade of the wall (painted in variations of office-space manila). The viewer gets the sense that Wilson needs assistance: not necessarily psychiatric care but at least a helping hand to walk him through it all. His work isn't juvenile; it's innocent: Some people just aren't cut out for toasting to the boss and smiling insincerely. But Wilson isn't wallowing in it—instead, he's having his revenge. The exhibition is on view from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, April 7, at Curator's Office, 1515 14th St. NW.
Art That Works
by Michael O'Sullivan, Washington Post Staff Writer, Washington Post, Friday, January 21, 2005; Page WE25
ACCORDING to Arlington Arts Center curator Carol Lukitsch, when Andy Moon Wilson was first invited to participate in the center's current exhibition, a celebration of the former schoolhouse's grand reopening after extensive renovation, the then-unemployed Virginia artist's plan was that he would sit in the gallery as a kind of human installation, cranking out 1,000 playing-card-size drawings, which he would pin to the wall as he finished them. Because of repeated construction-related delays of the center's opening -- and several postponements of the show -- by the time "State of the Art: A Mid-Atlantic Regional Overview" opened earlier this month, the impatient artist had already completed 1,250 pieces. Stuck in tiny zip-lock bags and mounted to the wall with pushpins, the untitled installation of alternately cartoony and mandala-like doodles, which wraps around one end of the arts center's upstairs gallery (and sell for five bucks a piece), is one of the hits of the show.
It's also, coincidentally, related to a kind of accidental theme I've identified among the best works in this "overview," which features art from Washington, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania artists.
Although Wilson ultimately didn't end up putting himself on display as a kind of artmaking machine, two of my favorite pieces do precisely that. Just to the left after you walk in the front door is Claire Watkins's "Untitled (Parasites)," a suite of small, wall-mounted metal plates behind which slowly moving motorized magnets cause tiny arrays of pins and metal filings to shape-shift before your eyes. Downstairs, Galo Moncayo's "so far, I do not know" does something similar, as live loudspeakers that have been placed on the floor chirp and croak in random sequence, creating not just a kind of weird electronic music, but ever-altering abstract pictures, as the dry blue and green pigment that has been sprinkled over speakers jumps and vibrates with each burp.
Like artist Roxy Paine's mechanized "Paint Dipper" (part of the 2003 "Work Ethic" exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art that created "paintings" without the presence of the artist), or Wim Delvoye's "Cloaca" (another art-machine that came to New York's New Museum of Contemporary Art in 2002 and that was designed to replicate the human digestion system, creating, in the process, artificial feces), the works by these two Virginia artists are not just examples of ingenious engineering and, in a strange way, formal beauty. They're also engaged with a bunch of fascinatingly knotty conceptual issues: Who is the artist when the "art" makes itself? And is the art the machine, the product or the question?
Like Wilson's drawings, Marylander Karin Birch's five gorgeous mixed-media "paintings" (really hybrids of painting, embroidery and stitched beads) bring the notion of artistic labor into the foreground in a way that art -- which, at least historically, has attempted to erase all evidence of the artist's hand -- typically doesn't. Surely painting, sculpture, even photography, can be a lot of hard work. But there's something about Birch's sewn and beaded abstractions on linen, and the weightless way that the effort of their making insinuates itself into your consciousness, that drives home their function as concrete meditations. Laborare est orare, or work is prayer, as the saying goes. Suggestive of loss and longing, Birch's sad and lovely pieces bespeak both the artist's sweat . . . and tears.
As with any group show, especially one with 69 artists, "State of the Art" is hit or miss. Some of the works are not especially interesting, and some suffer from awkward or insufficient lighting in what is generally speaking, a hugely improved exhibition space utilizing three floors.
Painting is well represented, too, with top-notch abstract work by the District's Craig Cahoon, Kevin Kepple and Maggie Michael, and Jerome Hershey of Pennsylvania. Washington painters John Winslow and Isabel Manalo, with Csilla Sadloch of Pennsylvania, hold down the representational fort.
Of the photographers, my favorite is FEAST, a Virginia collective of five artists whose staged examples of deadpan surrealism -- including a snapshotlike picture of a portly security guard checking his teeth in the mirror as his utility-belt-clad canine helper looks patiently off camera -- are certainly the funniest works on view.
And hey, what's wrong with that? All work and no play would make Jack a very dull boy indeed.
STATE OF THE ART: A MID-ATLANTIC REGIONAL OVERVIEW -- Through March 12 at the Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd. (Metro: Virginia Square). 202-248-6800. www.arlingtonartscenter.org. Open Tuesday-Saturday 11 to 5. Free.