The paintings in Andrew Wollner’s first one-artist show comprise a visual treatise on the nature of personal identity. Conner Contemporary Art is delighted to introduce this notable young painter at a moment when humanity as a whole poses the question: who are we? Wollner, who describes himself as an “abstract narrative” painter, deploys painting as a vehicle for self-examination. He explains: “The motivation and desire to uncover the hidden truths of my identity suggest the main thrust behind my artistic intentions. The concepts and clarity of my ideas hold together my painting process.”
Wollner identifies the locus of his inquiry as the memory of growing up outside of Houston, Texas: “I depict the popular reality of my own suburban experience.” His compositions are abstracted architectural spaces constructed with rectangular forms and linear patterns. He describes his colors as “intentionally decorative, referencing 1970’s motifs.” He explains that: “To revisit this period fully, I utilize interior house paint to depict suburbia accurately. Although my visual record stems from personal nostalgia, the language of my paint is universal and avoids sentimental tributes. Whether or not viewers gain an accurate assessment of who I am does not concern me as much as their deriving something for themselves. The shapes and colors of my paintings are intended to cause the viewer to recall familiar scenarios of comfortable homelike settings.”
Wollner’s ethnic origin affords him a unique perspective on the American home. Of Indonesian and Chinese descent, he was adopted in infancy by a Jewish American family. From this vantage, he achieves a rare unity of artistic technique and thematic content in his works. He explains: “Texture describes elapsed time. Layers emphasize the importance of living history. The paint on top is the life that I know, yet I continue to scrape through.” On the paintings’ surfaces he represents cultural constructs (such as religious traditions) and social conformity (the ideal of the perfect suburban home). Under this veneer, deeper layers of paint show through, signifying the artist’s native heritage and individual characteristics that distinguish personal identity in general.
Wollner skillfully negotiates an impressive stylistic continuum ranging from pure abstraction to objective representation. He selectively employs these visual modes to construct pictorial metaphors for the social norms to which individuals are subjected - thus the show title, “Measuring Up.” Calibrated devices, such as a thermometer, a ruler, and a measuring cup, appear in his paintings. The artist further signifies social judgments through manipulation of compositional elements, such as the relative proportions of figures and the segmentation of forms. Units of measure also reference the critical standards that he applies to his work. High standards, indeed, being based on his study of abstract expressionists Eric Fischl, Robert Motherwell and Mark Rothko.
Wollner uses his knowledge of painting techniques and styles to realize his goal of ”creating a timeless and styleless image. I do not want a particular style to ever take precedent over my content,” he states and asserts that the “danger of routine“ in the repetitive actions of painting can contribute to stylistic stagnation and restrictive categorization. The works in this show involve an analogous theme: the monotony of conformity expressed in what the artist describes as “routines that feel religious.” On the evolution of the art of painting, Wollner comments: “Perhaps we have reached another kind of freedom, separate from style, process, or anything which manifests itself in the physical world.”
The Gallery is happy to celebrate the beginning of a new cultural era with the revitalizing vigor of this promising artist’s work.