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January 18 – February 22, 2020
515 West 24th Street
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Gladstone Gallery is pleased to present Spectrum, an exhibition of new works by T. J. Wilcox. For this show, Wilcox debuts a six-part silent film based on different colors of the rainbow. In its installation, each hue blends together and elaborates a figure or event that has been seminal to the artist’s experience in becoming an artist and as a gay man. The works in this show explore the artist’s maturation and identity in ways that are both deeply personal and universal. Alongside the film, Wilcox presents a series of new photocollages on silk based on the video works that comprise Spectrum, adding this new material to his expanding practice. 

The elliptical narratives from Spectrum transform a series of visual fragments into dissected fractions of light that delve into a variety of topics significant to Wilcox’s identity and research interests. Drawing from a range of cultural sources, from documentary to mythic, the single projection film investigates Wilcox’s cathexis towards objects of popular fixation and their significance in the formation of the artist’s queer identity. With Hyacinth and Apollo and Taglioni’s Dance, Wilcox references figures engaged in the act of preservation, of cultivating their own legends. Both Apollo’s invention of the hyacinth to memorialize his lover and prima ballerina La Taglioni’s habitual reenactment of her starlit dance over the snow parallel Wilcox’s process of reconstructing a memory through the use of emblematic imagery. In the works that derive from documentary sources, Garden in Hell, Grapefruit, and Green Carnation, Wilcox similarly manipulates significant anecdotes—gathering archival footage of Vogue editrix Diana Vreeland’s red living room, meditating on green carnations as a stand-in for Oscar Wilde’s flamboyant persona and as a reference to his prosecution for gross indecency, or Yoko Ono’s book of life instructions—in order to deconstruct the process by which history is distilled from embodied living experiences. Often, Wilcox’s evocative images hold queer double-meanings, and the same holds true in Monarch Butterfly which follows the eponymous creature, commonly associated with gay men and thought of as delicate and frivolous, as it completes one of the most complex migratory events in the natural world, traveling over 8,000 miles on its paper-thin wings. Exhibited simultaneously as looped videos that are projected onto a long, narrow screen, each film has differing durations. The resulting projection creates a seemingly never-ending viewing experience within the structurally complex exhibition space Wilcox has constructed. The narratives and colors bleed into one another, creating an optically compelling story that can be read or experienced as six different films or a single image. This complexity and careful attention to creating an immersive environment is further demonstrated through the monumental scale of the single screen and the cascading rainbow that appears beneath the projection, continuing to envelop the viewer into a space that is both vibrant and contemplative.

Alongside each film, Wilcox has made a series of multi-ply silk hangings, printed with a photo-collaged images that references the source materials from each new video work. The collages borrow from documentary sources, Wilcox’s own photography, illustrations, and found imagery to construct portraits of the historical subjects or natural world. Recalling both the omnipresent flag of queer liberation and the importance of the color spectrum in the optics of film and photography, Wilcox’s hanging photographs explore both process and history with a subtle biographical edge. 

T. J. Wilcox was born in 1965 in Seattle, Washington, and lives and works in New York. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Grand Rapids Art Museum, Michigan; Carthage Hall, Lismore Castle Arts, Waterford, Ireland; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Kunstverein Munich, Munich. Wilcox has been included in group exhibitions at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Musee d’art et d’histoire, Geneva; Centro Galego De Arte Contemporánea, Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany; Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany. His films have been screened at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Tate Modern, London, and he participated in the 2015 Biennale de Lyon and the 2004 Whitney Biennial.