Tigers Milks 53x47x9"
In his first solo exhibition with the gallery since 2016, Jason Willaford returns to present his latest body of vinyl-based constructions. After A Long Pause... includes work completed in 2019 that have been approached from a more intuitively-driven process than Willaford’s previous investigations with the medium. Part-painting and part-sculpture, the pieces in this exhibition resist conventional categorization as Willaford has developed a more sophisticated relationship with his materials.
The medium was the message with Willaford’s earliest explorations with vinyl, beginning in 2012. The work responded in a literal way to the printed content of the billboards that were cut, sewn, and quilted: a trellis of phallic symbols made from the billboard of an adult video store or a menacing school of fish constructed from a Sam’s Club advertisement. Seven years later, Willaford is less concerned with preserving the medium’s original intent and more interested in pushing the material into an unidentifiable state. Through a meticulously-honed additive and subtractive process that involves cutting, sewing, and painting with markers, spray paints, and latex paint, the vinyl is used to create objects that become their own entities and defy their original physical characteristics.
Along with this new mindset has come a new-found freedom in the artist’s approach to creating his work. With minimal planning at the onset, forms are allowed to develop in a much more organic nature as fragments of vinyl are pieced together, a systemic action that ultimately leads the direction of each construction. Willaford has developed an extensive visual vocabulary that includes net-like voids, protruding masses, and intricately sewn seams. In this more open-ended approach, nothing remains too precious to rework. Even as pieces are completed, their potential is continuously considered through being displayed alone as an individual organism or joined with other works to form larger colonies.
Willaford’s history as a painter also comes through strongly in this body of work. Wherein earlier works large sections of vinyl were left untouched, the newest constructions are boldly painted to leave little unmarked. Vivid applications of spray paint are often used to create volume through color while paint markers visually reinforce composition and topography through drawing. Through this use of painting, Willaford can completely transform one’s reading of the material. Interpretation of the constructions is further disrupted as glimmers of glossy vinyl surfaces suggest they could be fabricated from metal. Altogether, these elements catch one’s eye from afar and invite for closer inspection.
As the title of the exhibition suggests, the work has been created after spending decided time away from the influence of factors outside the studio. This time has allowed Willaford to create his own rules for pushing the material in new and unexpected directions. After a Long Pause... is ultimately a celebration and rejection of the medium that Willaford has made his own.