Originally published October 28, 2010 by CityArts
Money, money everywhere, but not a buck to spend. That was one of the thoughts running through my mind as I viewed Tender by C.K. Wilde at Pavel Zoubeck Gallery. The exhibition is a giddy cacophony of currency from all nations, painstakingly dissected and used as collage material. The resulting pieces are at once strong political statements and beautiful compositions.
Wilde has certainly benefited from the European nations’ switch from their native currencies to the Euro. Worthless kopeks, lira, guilders and francs now dance across the page (or “spring from the register”) of Wilde’s imagination. The array of colors is staggering; who knew that money could be so beautiful?
But the message beneath these gorgeous bits of paper is serious and provocative. Wilde has carefully used the money from specific countries to illustrate the political points he seeks to make. In the collage “Destroyer of Worlds,” the mushroom cloud of Hiroshima is depicted as a wild swirl of Asian currencies, beautiful and deadly.
In other works, Wilde takes on famous art from history. His use of the currency collage in reimagining Goya’s “Disasters of War” underlines the ways in which money and war go hand in hand, always resulting in disaster.
Wilde inhabits an interesting niche. His method is part of a long-standing collage tradition, but his sensibility is that of a narrative painter. This combination is not often seen in the collage genre. More often it’s the importance of an image in and out of context that drives the power of collage. Here, we see the importance of narrative take precedence over the material. His technical ability in creating these ambitious narratives out of tiny little bits of paper is staggering. But it is the stories that he chooses to tell that give the work its true artistry.
Through Nov. 13, Pavel Zoubok Gallery, 533 W. 23rd St., 212-675-7490.