William T. Wiley

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William T. Wiley
William T Wiley in San Francisco, 2006, photograph by Sally Larsen.jpg
William T Wiley in San Francisco, 2006
Born (1937-10-21) October 21, 1937 (age 82)
EducationCalifornia School of Fine Arts
Known fordrawing, painting, sculpture, film, and performance
AwardsPurchase Prize from the Whitney Museum of American Art 1968. Honorary Doctorate at San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California 1980. 2004 Guggenheim Fellowship Award.
Fan for the A.M. by William T. Wiley, 1984, acrylic paint and colored pencil on canvas, Honolulu Museum of Art

William T. Wiley (born October 21, 1937)[1] is an American artist. His practice spans a broad range of media including drawing, painting, sculpture, film, performance, and pinball. At least some of Wiley's work has been referred to as funk art.[2]

Life and work[edit]

He was born in Bedford, Indiana. Raised in Indiana, Texas, and Richland, Washington, Wiley moved to San Francisco to study at the California School of Fine Arts where he earned his BFA in 1960 and his MFA two years later.[3] In 1963, Wiley joined the faculty of the UC Davis art department with Bay Area Funk Movement artists Robert Arneson and Roy DeForest. During that time Wiley instructed students including Bruce Nauman, Deborah Butterfield, and Stephen Laub.[4] According to Dan Graham, the literary, punning element of Nauman's work came from Wiley.[5] Wiley also acknowledges the effect Nauman had on his own work.[6]

His first solo exhibition was held at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1960.

In the late 1960s Wiley collaborated with the minimalist composer Steve Reich and introduced him to Bruce Nauman.[7]

Wiley continued to build upon his growing stature as a major artist with works appearing in the Venice Biennial (1980) and Whitney Biennial (1983). He also had major exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1981), M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco (1996), and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2005).[1]

In 2009, the Smithsonian American Art Museum presented a retrospective of Wiley's career titled What's It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect, from October 2, 2009 through January 24, 2010. A review in the Wall Street Journal stated: "Mr. Wiley's work is unlike any other in recent art... He is less a contemporary artist than a national treasure." [8][9]

In 2010, the retrospective moved to the Berkeley Art Museum, from March 17 to July 18. The catalogue for the retrospective, "What's It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect", was co-published by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and University of California Press. In 2017, Wiley was the subject of a solo exhibition at Bivins Gallery, Dallas, TX, William T. Wiley: Where the Rub Her Meats the Rode.

In 2019, Hosfelt Gallery presented William T. Wiley: Sculpture, Eyes Wear Tug Odd, which emphasized Wiley's sculptures and constructions and their relationship to his work in other mediums. In a review for Square Cylinder, David M. Roth wrote, "In all, there are 40 pieces in the show, all of them worthy of sustained contemplation and discussion. I visited the exhibition twice, and each time I left the gallery feeling as if my head were about to explode, so dense is the imagery and text contained in these works. It borders on horror vacui. Given the madness engulfing us, that approach seems right. Wiley’s art, always extraordinarily prescient, now feels more relevant than ever." [10]

Also a singer and musician, Wiley collaborated with German composer Efdemin aka Phillip Sollmann, performing vocals on Oh, Lovely Appearance of Death for the 2019 CD release "New Atlantis" on the Ostgut Ton label [11]. Fact Magazine described the project as inspired by Francis Bacon’s 17th century utopian novel of the same name and according to the label “oscillates between fast, kaleidoscopic techno, multilayered drones and acoustic instrumentation”, incorporating the sounds of Sollmann’s dance floor-oriented productions as Efdemin and his more experimental work. [12]


Wiley is known for paintings that incorporate sketch-like drawings and handwritten notations.[13] Fan for the A.M., in the collection of the Honolulu Museum of Art, demonstrates the artist's technique. It consists of areas of bright acrylic paint surrounded by drawings and writing in colored pencil. Other public collections holding Wiley's work include the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art (Napa, California),[14] and the Honolulu Museum of Art.[15]

The Art Institute of Chicago[16], the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art[17], the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the New Britain Museum of American Art (New Britain, Connecticut), the Nelson-Atkins Museum (Kansas City, Missouri)[18], the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.), the Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven, Netherlands) the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis) and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Wiley was the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship Award in 2004.[1]


  1. ^ a b c "William T. Wiley Official Website". www.williamtwiley.com.
  2. ^ Artspeak, by Robert Atkins, 1990, ISBN 1-55859-127-3
  3. ^ "William Wiley - San Francisco Art Institute".
  4. ^ myartspace>blog: Art Space Talk: William T. Wiley
  5. ^ Dan Graham, Alexander Alberro, Two-Way Mirror Power: Selected Writings by Dan Graham on His Art, MIT Press, 1999, p112. ISBN 0-262-57130-7
  6. ^ Wiley quoted by Paul J. Karlstrom in Stephanie Barron, Sheri Bernstein, Ilene Susan Fort, Reading California: Art, Image, and Identity, 1900-2000, University of California Press, 2000, p100. ISBN 0-520-22767-0
  7. ^ Robert C. Morgan, Bruce Nauman, JHU Press, 2002, p61. ISBN 0-8018-6906-4
  8. ^ "What's It All Mean: William T. Wiley in Retrospect". Smithsonian American Art Museum.
  9. ^ Lawrence, Sidney (9 December 2009). "He's Wiley, And Witty" – via www.wsj.com.
  10. ^ "William T. Wiley @ Hosfelt".
  11. ^ "Ostgut Ton Bandcamp page".
  12. ^ "Efdemin explores utopian musical traditions on New Atlantis".
  13. ^ Honolulu Museum of Art, wall label, Fan for the A.M., accession 2017-31-1
  14. ^ "The Collection". dirosaart.org. Retrieved 2016-11-03.
  15. ^ Fan for the A.M., accession HMA 2017-31-1
  16. ^ [1]
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ [3]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]