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Aspen Art Museum


Cathy Wilkes

May 20, 2011-Jul 17, 2011

Cathy Wilkes belongs to a generation of artists educated in Glasgow, Scotland, who fuelled the development of the city’s strong art scene in the mid-1990s. Best known for sculpture and installations that work associatively rather than according to a strict narrative, Wilkes has created a distinctive, personal vocabulary that explores the relationship between inner reality and the experience of the physical world. In her deeply personal practice, found objects are placed in precise, but unexpected relationships to one another, recalling the fragmented nature of the human psyche and revealing the impossibility of truly and specifically communicating what we feel and need.

Her first one-person exhibition in the United States, Wilkes’s exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum was also the first to focus on the artist’s paintings. Paintings serve a variety of functions in Wilkes’s installations, employed variously to evoke place or emotion, as masks to hide the faces of mannequins, or to offset the manufactured objects in her assemblages with a more direct revelation of the artist’s hand.

Isolating the paintings from the artist’s larger practice, this exhibition provided the viewer an opportunity to reflect on works of poignant immediacy and intimacy. In addition to their beauty and formal ingenuity, the paintings’ power comes from Wilkes’s personal relationship with her compositions, a bond intensified by the length of time she spends working on them and the settings in which they were created (painted over a bathtub and periodically “washed clean”). As Wilkes explains, some of these works have served as her companion during the death of a parent or the birth of a child; the experience of the viewer in front of them should evoke a fittingly emotional experience.

This exhibition was funded in part by the AAM National Council with major underwriting from the Kerry and Simone Vickar Family Foundation. General exhibition support was provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Exhibition lectures are presented as part of the Questrom Lecture Series.