Wes Hempel Bares His Unease

Classical art was about nothing if not body worship. Think discus throwers and gods hurtling stars. The spirit and indeed the letter is very much alive in new paintings by Wes Hempel, in which the protagonist is a very buff and bare-chested (or nude) boy or youngish man who aches for imaginative expanses. The theater of representation remains as it did for Delmas Howe – highly theatrical. Realism and symbolism co-exist inside the frame as if in the space of a dream, painted dreamily with the clarity of remembered images that were as improbable as stunning. You can tell what everything is. Precisely. The marble toes gleam as if newly minted, perhaps being lapped gently at by the watery deeps in front of the man whose back is to us as he contemplates, yes, giants of nature, men of stone. Its impossible not to think of such precedents authoring false epic spaces. Giorgio di Chirico? But ultimately it doesnt go that far just to compare Wes Hempel to such others. It would be more probable to say he works very seriously at what he does, in a tradition of gay art that has not been widely seen but has been the focus of such foundations as Leslie Lohman.

Wes Hempel Syes Dream

Wes Hempel Sye's Dream

You can find some Piero della Francesca and some pastoral Poussin glades in the assemblies of figures and landscape contrivances that Hempel creates. You can go around pinning the tail on the ass in other words but that donkey aint going to bray. Because its not how smart the work is ultimately, that lends its compulsion to be stared at. Rather, its how tentative is the protagonist, his bared unease, his position in a center from which he clearly knows he commands the realm because of an incredible talent for painting, and yet hes still this guy. Thinking about sex and relationships, the other boys with which his life and picture and full. And an assertion of a quest for immortality even as it remains perfectly clear that vanities fade- flesh to dust – as the ancients also knew. Great work. At LewAllen Galleries Santa Fe.



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