Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Morning Grey. Ink and Charcoal re-post of my article

Erica Wickett is bringing her work up from Waco to Davis Foundry Gallery in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas. I shared a studio with her for a while and I had some interesting conversations about her work and in which directions she would like to take it. Critics Walter Robinson and Jerry Saltz might describe Wickett’s paintings as part of the Zombie Formalism. Both see a glut of abstract art that in their opinion are reductionist and attempt to be hip. Saltz named John Bauer and Jamie Sneider as examples of this kind of work, which felt a little like Wickett’s paintings. Maybe it is because I talked with Wickett and shared a space with her work, but I wouldn’t read her work so harshly.  Lets deconstruct her work and see if I am clouded by my personal bias.

A great way to get to know Erica Wickett is to take a look at Baylor professor Karl Umlauf’s paintings. His abstractions are a clear influence on Wickett’s paintings. Umlauf makes bold gestures with paint like a neo-expressionist from the 1980’s. A large chunk of his work looks like simulated decay of walls or structures. Almost all his work is dark, many times earthy, or he simulates motion in a few pieces by depicting what seems to be water waves. His painting style seems to have a strong influence on the local Waco art scene, because several artists in the area follow a similar look and style. Another artist sharing our studio space was Brandon Reasoner.  His large canvas paintings contained similar elements to Wickett, but he uses more colors and sometimes hinted to other images he would layer over to create a sense of depth and history in his works.  

Erica Wickett’s abstract paintings resemble a section of earth or maybe a portion of a decaying building. The textures are thick and rhythmic with black, white, and grey mixes of paint. You generally get the feeling that Wickett is tapping into a purely primitive aesthetic. Not primitive in the sense of 'untrained,' but more like Wickett is reaching back into our base experiences as humans when we first moved into caves or shelters. We as humans needed the caves for their consistent temperature and easy defense. I am reminded of the cave walls of the I35 caverns, between Waco and Austin.

For me, Wickett’s charcoal drawings are her strongest works. Her drawings are complex and tend to be figurative in nature like Jackson Pollack. These works are also in black and white, but every mark is enjoyable while the overall image seems to imply something less abstract. In our conversations at the studio, I often encouraged her to go to grad school, but a few artists-in-residencies would be great for her too. As for Zombie Formalism, I think the jury is still out. She is definitely in the danger zone. I see Wickett’s personal voice whispering in her paintings, but I would rather hear her screaming out her uniqueness. Judge for yourself at the Davis Foundry Gallery on 509 West Davis Street in Dallas. Erica Wickett will have her work up until July 26th.

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