In a beautiful and intelligent essay for the exhibition, John Wilcox: New York City, 1988-89, Dr. Frances Colpitt writes, “As if to counteract the incessant, grueling crush of death, this body of work is characterized by a Zen-like emptiness that is full, bursting with the resonance of a single word floating on a generous white rectangle or a radiant field of accumulated brushstrokes. Wilcox’s expressive process imparts meaning through every thoughtful mark, conveying discipline, restraint, and, above all, humility.”
The body of work to which Colpitt refers is a year-long endeavor by artist John Wilcox who, living in New York at the height of the AIDS epidemic, responded with a series of abstract paintings on canvas and texts painted on paper. In spring of 2010 Barry Whistler Gallery in Dallas showed Wilcox’s New York City, 1988-89 paintings. The entire exhibition was extremely moving in content and form. Each canvas glowed with layered brushstrokes that read collectively as fields of color but individually spoke of touching and being touched. The various texts seemed to operate as punctuation in the exhibition’s entirety, but with intimate consideration, each clearly represents a world of its own.
I was elated beyond words when I assured the loan of Wilcox’s text painting, TENDER for where is the power. Against all its considerable competition at Whistler’s gallery this piece had spoken to me personally and was clearly a perfect fit for the exhibition premise. Maybe all good art seems inevitable, but TENDER, a black watercolor of the word “tender” on two pieces of white paper, joined out of necessity to accommodate the letters “E” and “R” and to establish “tend” as tender’s root, seems to announce itself as such. This precariously rendered painting embodies its subject so absolutely, somehow representing all other incarnations of the word.
“Gazing on this night, heavy with signs and stars, I opened myself up for the first time to the tender indifference of the world.” — Albert Camus, The Stranger