Category Archives: featured artists

Featured Artist: John Lytle Wilson

The Robot’s Disciples

Behold, as John Lytle Wilson makes his grand entrance, you’re sure to do a double-take. Wilson’s recent juxtapositions of robots and monkeys have garnered the attention of more than one hip gallery around the country, and his notoriety doesn’t appear to be waning any. It’s tough to know how to react to his work. If we’re being honest, my gut was first somewhere between rolling around on the floor with laughter and running from the room screaming, but then great art always gets a strong reaction, doesn’t it?

Wilson is artist-in-residence at a little local gallery that sits amidst artists’ studios, other galleries, and small, locally-owned shops. When he’s not painting monkey disciples of giant robots, he’s making disciples of the rest of us with his newest “corrected paintings.” About these, Wilson asserts that “occasonally, an artist will paint something, but neglect to include robots and/or monkeys. When I can, I fix that. The result? Side-splitting renderings of robots and monkeys, usually attacking the subject of someone else’s otherwise rather conservative painting:

Blue Robots Assail the Farmhouse

After you get over the initial visual shock, what’s really refreshing about Wilson’s stuff is that it makes you think . . . about technology, about why you never thought about something before, about a kind of existential blues common to a postmodern technological era, about why the hell much of the population appears NOT to be thinking on a given day . . . you know, lighthearted stuff.

It’s not really that nobody else has ever thought out loud about this kind of thing through their visual art. In fact, Wilson put together an entire show featuring like-minded painters and sculptors, and his work has been featured in other contexts where such juxtapositions formed the shared artistic substance that strung the whole bit together. No, what’s really impressive about Wilson’s work is that he does it so starkly, so convincingly, so laugh-or-cry-out-loud well that you can’t help but love it.

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Let’s start here

Why not start with some musicians for whom I have a great amount of respect. It’s not just because Chris is my brother-in-law. In fact, I knew him before I knew my wife. We were attending jazz camps together in Iowa as teenagers. Now he’s doing his thing in NYC, not only with CPhin but many others. Here’s what I really dig about Chris: he’s not just out there trying to make a living whoring himself out to whatever band will give him the better contract or whatever company will give him the best endorsement deal. He’s got integrity. He is a thinking musician who’s thinking about the future of jazz, of improvisatory music in general, and of American music as a portion of his identity. Every note I’ve ever heard him play, no matter what style, has been one thing that to me lies at the base of all great art: honest.

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