Rose Wylie, Lolita's House, David Zwirner London, review: Few painters are more arrestingly, pleasingly odd
One way in, since you were asking, might be to find words to describe the particular brush strokes that Rose Wylie seems to use. Here’s a bit of a list, though not an exhaustible one by any means: splots, dots, dashes, splats, splashes, splodges, licks, tags, plops, plonks, crumps, etc. Does all this sound a bit ridiculous? Sorry. Blame the work, not me.
And a little odd-sounding, too? You bet. There are few painters more arrestingly odd than Wylie, and it took a while for a big gallery to notice quite how pleasingly odd she was, and what it all amounted to. This is her second show at David Zwirner over in Mayfair, but her first wasn’t much of a show at all, so you could call it her first without over-masticating the truth.
It’s a huge show too, covering all three of the gallery’s floors. It is a bit of a surprise that a woman of her age should have produced such a mountain of work – and on such large a scale, too. She will be 84 in October.
Now here comes a big pantechnicon of a generalisation to jam the road. Brace yourself. Evidence from this show proves, at a stroke, quite conclusively, that youth have lost the plot, that they were never mature enough or knowledgeable enough to be taken seriously in the first place. The future belongs to those women who have lived long enough to deserve it. Think of Louise Bourgeois. Think of Phyllida Barlow. My case rests.
We’ve dealt with the brush strokes and the barn-storming philosophy. What of the temper, the mood, the character of the work itself? Another list, beg pardon: exuberant, wacky, brash, unruly, seriously silly. The paintings are often very large. They drool over or lollop between several canvases. They are brashly cartoony, fistily in your face, made up of patchworky bits and pieces.
They bounce around like lunatics. Perspective collapses in merriment. The rule book’s on fire. She often scribbles across the face of the paintings, loudly, phonetically. The colour contrasts are fierce, even screechy. Paint comes in tomato purée-like dollops.
Lots of young girls stretch around, thin, long-limbed, rubberised, sometimes tricked out like old screen starlets. There is much corn-yellow hair to warm our eyes at. She remembers bits of old Tarantino films, and then proceeds to remake them in brash, story-boardy constructions, complete with pink Cadillacs with their diabolically dangerous yellow headlights and a grease-quiffed gangster.
As Gertrude Stein once remarked of her (even before she was born): a rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. She would surely agree.