Preview: Edward Walton Wilcox "The Gilded Tantrum" @ Merry Karnowsky, LA (JUXTAPOZ)
Merry Karnowsky Gallery is proud to present The Gilded Tantrum, a new exhibition by Edward Walton Wilcox. The Gilded Tantrum is perhaps Wilcox’s most conceptual exhibition thus far: through paintings and installations, it unfolds in picture-book fashion a world of Victoriana as wonderful as it is ineffably mysterious. The exhibition opens Saturday, July 27, in Los Angeles.
The story begins with Wilcox explaining the exhibition’s origins: “The Gilded Tantrum is the name given to the vessel built by my great-great-great-grandfather, Matthius Schoonhoven, in 1877.” This ship, he says, was designed as a “yacht to be enjoyed as a recreational craft and at once a gunboat for defense and sport.” The artist’s statement recalls the ship’s five generation history with his family with such effortless sentiment that it becomes irrelevant how absurd it may be, or how much of Wilcox’s story is pure fantasy. The Gilded Tantrum is one of those stories one would rather believe in, rather than disbelieve it and suffer its absence. The story becomes all the more real when confronted with the grand centerpiece of the exhibition, a massive 115 by 20 inch replica of Wilcox’s “watery ancestral home.” The model comes complete with burnished steel, wood paneling and copper fittings, cabin windows, gun turrets and a savagely pointed battering ram – all built by the artist. As with all good miniatures, it is hard not to imagine oneself to scale with the ship, able to witness first hand one of the summer trips that Wilcox so reverently describes: steaming through the clear waters of the Florida Keys, watching the sunset with the deck rumbling comfortingly beneath one’s feet and full lobster pots bobbing by.
Wilcox retains elements of his characteristic style – the sepia-tinted palette, the finely-honed techniques borrowed from 16th century masters, and his knack for an astonishing diversity of media – but for this exhibition he has created an entirely new aesthetic concept. The allusions are plentiful; paintings like ‘The Gilded Tantrum in a Shallow Water Channel’ are reminiscent of Turner’s nautical works, while the numerous paintings featuring lonely figures on rowboats have a distinct Dutch renaissance flavor to them. The idea of the venerable Tantrum, on the other hand, calls to mind Jules Verne and Captain Nemo’s Nautilus and perhaps, Roald Dahl’s brand of imagination. Despite the pervading gloom and darkness, all the bare trees and desolate landscapes, Wilcox’s works have a pleasant tinge of humor to them, as with the tongue-in-cheek take on gender roles in the Etruscan style pendant ‘If I hunt for you will you cook for me'. Wilcox clearly adores the stilted and maudlin side of the ‘Gilded age’, but knows how to laugh about it too.
This exhibition, as an accomplished exercise in magical realism, is tied together by reoccurring images of the sea and glimpses of the Gilded Tantrum sailing by in the background – finished in such rich sunset tones, they seem to have been cast in amber.
Originally from West Palm Beach, Florida, Wilcox now resides in California. He graduated with a BFA from the University of Florida, receiving High Honors and the Presidential Award for Artistic Excellence. Since then his work has been featured across the United States and Europe and appeared in publications such as The LA Times, Juxtapoz, Coagula Art Journal and FLAUNT Magazine.