Review by Douglas Stockdale •
I Don’t Explain. Urban street art, graffiti and variations of guerrilla art make for a tantalizing photographic subject; intensively colorful, graphic, layered, complex, playful and temporal. Investigating urban site art has a tradition that can be traced back the Abstract Expressionistic photographic work of Aaron Siskind. In the reading of Artifacts it is probably not surprising to find that Bill Wishner has a background in photographing jazz musicians. The resulting compositions that Wishner extracts from the found urban landscape have lyrical and poetic qualities.
His photographs have a visual rhythm with haunting color vibrancies; indigo blue notes, a bit eclectic, and brassy melodies with an undertone of burnished bronze; all of it very urban cool. Jazz originated as an American music form that has been projected well beyond its borders, much as this style of urban artwork that Wishner photographs.
Wishner’s photographs are not meant to document but lean into creating collaborative images with an unknown group of street artists in conjunction with time and the elements of weather. The final improvisational jazz framing by Wishner creates a new work that has a decidedly musical tonality that I Don’t Explain.
The resulting body of work reminds me of Abstract Expressionist artwork mashed-up with site specific urban guerrilla Street Art with subtle hints of Banksy, Jacek Tylicki, Annie Preece and other graffiti artists. The resulting images are complex, colorful, and literally very layered. One artists work recedes by the appropriation of the next artist and serendipity of these temporary visual work. As one suspects; the subject that Wishner photographed in the moment may not exist in its entirety the following day or week, whether by the act of another street artist or the elements of nature.
Wishner’s pictorial framing re-contextualizes the existing street art by creating a new visual image; by what he includes and excludes in his compositions. His photographs have an intensely colorful palette. Likewise, there is a subtle pairing of the photographs in the book in which the facing images harmonize across the gutter; sharing a color, echoing complementary forms and shapes, repeating patterns, exploring similar elements or concepts. An intriguing personal interpretation and exploration of found urban art. Remember, like Jazz, the basic rule for urban street art is their unstated declaration: I Don’t Explain.
Bill Wishner – Artifacts
Photographer: Bill Wishner, born Philadelphia, PA, resides Pasadena, CA, (USA)
Publisher: Acuity Press, Pasadena, CA 2017
Essays: Dennis Keeley & Bill Wishner
Stiff cover with translucent dust jacket, sewn binding, two gate-folds, four-color lithography, printed by Marathon Press, Norfolk, Nebraska
Photobook designer: Cheri Gray (Graydesign)