A Little More Conversation: Wade Guyton and T.J. Wilcox

by Wade Guyton and T.J. Wilcox


How hard can it be for two artists, old friends, to organize a conversation for an art magazine? Seemingly, this is an impossible undertaking. But then a suspicion starts to arise, that the further we read on, turns to certainty: amidst margarita-infused after-shows, decrepit computers and printers on the fritz, this dance of text messages, sophisticated conversations and procrastination ends up being an excellent strategy (the verbal equivalent of a jazz motif) to lead us, before we know it, into the hotbed of Wade Guyton and T.J. Wilcox’s creativity, into the heart of the practice and occasion that generates a work of art…


Nov. 25, 2008 1:16 pm

T.J. WILCOX: Heya—left a message yesterday about the Italian mag—any thoughts on the subject?


Dec 10, 2008 10:29 am

WADE GUYTON: Did u already get Christian Scheidemanns #? Hey I know we talked about doing our conversation today or tmrw, but can we postpone?


Dec 10 2008, 4:01 pm

T. J. W: Just went to Herr Scheidemann’s—he’s such a nice guy—I didn’t remember til I aw him but I met him a long time ago—think Gavin sends everything there. Anyway he wants me to glue everything the way Kelley is attaching his bricks. Do you think K would have me over to see how they do it? I’ll send a text part 2 about Mousse.

T. J. W: Found my recorder thing last night. What did they (or did they?) say about when we need something? I have let you deal with them (thank You) if you need me to do something pls ask. So let me know when you’re free—looking forward to it oddly if only to see a bit of you—t.


Dec 10, 2008 12:18 am

WG: They need something by Xmas… I’m sure Kelley wd have u over. Ask him.


Dec 17, 2008 12:18 am

WG: Tomorrow?


Dec 17, 2008 8:51 am

T. J. W: Ok with me


Dec 20, 2008 3:39 pm

T. J. W: Nice to see you last night Wade… feeling like we didn’t make much Italian headway.

WG: uggghhhh hungover—too many cheap margaritas. Monday then?


Dec 22, 2008 4:30 pm

WG: Can we say 645? Is that too late?

T. J. W: No prob—text me your address Wade: 39 west 38. Btw 5/6


Dec 23, 2008 9:45 am

WG: Hey I got an email from Edoardo at Mousse so we’re going to need to do this conversation


Dec 23, 2008 12:35 pm

T. J. W: Super—just wish it could be leisurely… over the years we’ve had conversations in bars, on beaches, in studios, on boats etc… but I’m so loaded with work at the mo that this one may have to happen over Iphone/sms… is that alright with you?


Dec 23, 2008 2:21 pm

WG: Probably the best idea. I’m in the studio now stretching paintings for Milan…Still not sure how the show will turn out though—or what will go. Making some stripe paintings inspired by the bathing suit on that guy in my Portikus poster… kind of fragmented monochromes


Dec 23, 2008 2:23 pm

T. J. W: I’ve thought, on beaches, that bathing costumes are often such unfortunate interruptions—they literally fragment our own (skin) monochrome. We’d all be better off (visually anyway) in the buff on beaches… or covered head to toe… but I really think bathing suits are ugly. But I think maybe you disagree? You like the suit on your poster—guy, right?


Dec 23, 2008 2:24 pm

WG: not a nudist here. The suit has a great center seam—like the ptgs.


Dec 23, 2008 5:30 pm

T. J. W: (well I haven’t heard from you in a while so I’m figuring you either are very busy stretching canvases… I’ll just continue) I’m glad to talk to you at this moment because we’re both in New York but we’re thinking about Milan. One of the things that informed the making of this exhibition for me was my spotty and random knowledge of Milan, which, while incomplete, offers a portrait of some of my current (or reoccurring) preoccupations. To give two examples: I’ve always loved the work of Fornasetti and I wanted the work I bring to Milan to pay some degree of homage to his objects. And… One of the subjects of the new film I’ll be showing is a woman called Marchesa Luisa Casati—originally from Milan. She lived, very extravagantly, in Venice, where she would moon—bathe late at night in furs and ropes of pearls, pulled across St. Marks Square by her cheetahs on long, diamond encrusted leads.


Dec 23, 2008 5:53 pm

WG: Interesting to discover that both of our work projects began with bathers!


Dec 23, 2008 11:37 pm

T. J. W: What a crazy day. I’ve been so busy trying to work on work that I’ve completely avoided Christmas… until today. Did you know you can buy a goose at midnight in New York City? Also I went for margaritas with Helene at the Odeon—haven’t been there forever but it’s still ok after all these years. She and Janelle used to have there first post show parties there in the 1980s. Anyway I told her about Milan and you and me and she said it sounds like fun and she wants to come too.


Dec 25, 2008 12:56 pm

T. J. W: Happy Christmas—x T.


Dec 25, 2008 3:15 pm

WG: Hey merry Xmas… Let’s pick this up tomorrow!


Dec 26, 2008 3:50 pm

T. J. W: How was your holiday?


Dec 26, 2008 4:01 pm

WG: Wonderful. But now I’m already back to work on this show… And I just met yr contractor Jimmy. He seems cool, laidback…


Dec 26, 2008 5:41 pm

T. J. W: He’s a good guy… I’m annoyed with him again right now, but I’m sure he’ll fix this dumb thing he’s done….Wanted to be in the studio all day but I’ve just arrived… long night ahead. There’s still a wrapped bottle of Scotch sitting here for the drunk guy who runs the elevator… we spent some time wondering if it was bad to give him more of the drink he drinks too often—or good? At least we gave him something he really wants. Anyway it might be moot if I’m here all night and start in on it myself…


Dec 26, 2008 8:48 pm

WG: Funny. My elevator guy likes Jack Daniels so we are always plying him with whiskey. It’s a real pain in the ass getting the work out of the studio because I have that tiny freight elevator and you know I make those pntgs just big enough to get in there. So it’s quite an ordeal so I have to keep Ralph happy. I think people forget about the physicalness of the paintings—their composition being related to the limits of the machine but also the surface to my floor and their scale to the size of my elevator!


Dec 26, 2008 9:46 pm

T. J. W: Having spent most of my art making life in New York I’m accustomed to the preciousness of space here… I always think those limitations make a person think harder about what and how they make what they do—my film budgets/crew/equipment have always been very modest by choice—(as well as lack of choice)—I think it’s an interesting challenge to film “China” (for example) in your bedroom rather than flying there with cast and crew. I loved seeing Pollock’s house in Springs on Long Island a couple of years ago—the earliest drip paintings were made in an upstairs bedroom of their old farmhouse—these canvases which we now associate with vast modernist exhibition spaces in fact also reflect the dimensions of nineteenth century domestic interiors. And I’m glad to hear someone else is greasing the gears of New York City with good booze—never hurts, often helps.


Dec 26, 2008 11:46 pm

T. J. W: So it’s late and I’m about to go but the oddest thing has been happening and I know you’ve experienced something similar… I opened a new roll of the mylar on which I’m printing the various elements that will be cut out and combined as collage drawings—I’ve been printing all evening—but this roll is responding to the ink in a completely unexpected and new way (it sort of crackles the image) I think it’s really beautiful but I’m once again reminded of how much variation, unpredictability and chaos there is within a system of production that’s mechanical, digital and supposedly uniform. It’s great.


Dec 27, 2008 10:15 am

WG: Yeah it sounds great when you describe it, but even though I do enjoy a printer mistake here and there, my experience of that unpredictability has caused more frustration than awe. The reason I started making those black paintings was precisely this irregularity with the material—the linen, which the producers in Provence say is exactly the same as always, actually changed—and all those paintings were fucked up and mushy so I just started printing black over and over them. I guess I shouldn’t complain because a whole new body of work came out of that disaster. But at the time it was really frustrating…

WG: Hey I never thought to ask you… in your films or when you first started making your films, was there any discovery like this with the film or the camera that structured the work? There’s obviously this incredible negotiation between the technological and the handmade which I think is especially poignant alongside your narrative or character choices, but was there anything that fucked up in the process which altered the way you would make those movies?


Dec 27, 2008 10:39 am

T. J. W: Well, first off, these frustrating artmaking ‘mistakes’ can certainly (and perhaps more often than not) be frustrating and for naught… but as you say, sometimes… I was also remembering visiting your studio one incredibly hot and humid new york summer night and your painting’s just would not dry. Well, they eventually did, but the heat and moisture caused them to have a surface I remember you liking a lot.

T. J. W: Getting carsick texting in taxi—will write from studio.


Dec 27, 2008 11:17 am

WG: That night was really insane. It was 100 degrees in the studio and we were sweating like crazy… and those new fire paintings looked like they were melting. Since I’ve gotten air conditioning I’ve never been able to replicate that effect.


Dec 27, 2008 12:19 pm

T. J. W : I find that whole subject so interesting—for every gain technologically (for you in this case air conditioning) something is often lost. I’ve found this with almost every piece of film equipment I’ve ever used—and at the beginning of my filmmaking I had a big example of this with the early attempts to transition from film to video stock. It was proposed as a one to one (equivalent) exchange—film to video—when in fact they were incredibly different types of media. The tourist grade film of the day was thousands of times richer visually, finer grained, broader in it’s spectrum of color etc than video. I thought so many art videos ended up looking like the reality tv show “Cops” because of the ugly, reportage looking video format in which they were shot.

T. J. W: And as for incorporating my mistakes… there have been so many… A simple example is that I once shot a scene slightly out of focus—I freaked and went to all the trouble to reshoot—and it was only when I had both examples of the scene back from the lab that I realized the slightly out of focus version was a stronger choice for the scene I was trying to make.


Dec 27, 2008 12:36 pm

T. J. W: A more complicated example is the whole convoluted system of making films that I developed as I zigged and zagged across different media types. As I said because of the subjects I wanted to take on, I wanted to have as rich a ‘filmic’ look as possible so I always shot on super—8 film. But I also wanted to edit and add effects that were beyond my abilities as a film editor (titles, cross dissolves etc) -so I had the film transferred to digital media to edit and then back again to film for exhibition. At each step in the transfer process (from one media to another) the lab technicians were worried about all I would be losing (in terms of resolution or pixels or whatever)… When I found just the opposite to be true—with each step through this technological jungle I felt my footage became richer, its colors pastel and faded like a good old carpet or an ancient tapestry—the films took on something of the character of the stories I was telling—passed on over time, across cultures, through books, translated from one language to another—all of those steps to me are as interesting as the stories themselves.


Dec 27, 2008 3:16 pm

T. J. W: I just made a dumb mistake—NOT of the productive sort we were discussing earlier (I cut out a cheetah for one of my drawings backwards) because my mind was adrift in this conversation… Specifically that it occurred to me (with a little surprise) that we’ve been friends looking at each others work for at least 10 years now—you were still in graduate school when we met. At that time you were involved primarily with sculpture and photography both of which remain part of your practice though you’ve been showing painting these last years. I went to Art Center in Pasadena, California where I studied with people like Stephen Prina and Mike Kelley. When I arrived there I was making paintings and sculptures and by the time I left I was beginning to work with film. Nevertheless I think all of these mediums continue to be present in what I do now and I was wondering about your thoughts regarding varied art making means.

WG: well, remember at Hunter I barely made anything… and Robert Morris was pretty supportive—or tolerant is a better word. And recently I had this funny experience having to look back at really old sculptural/architectural work which I hadn’t thought about in a long time—and similar things are/were happening with the ptgs and those folded mirror sculptures. And I’m still dealing with this line between the photographic and the abstract in the paintings—whether it’s printing scanned images or just laying down fields of color.

WG: Especially with the paintings I like this idea that the same tool—the printer—is used to make a legibly photographic or anabstract/process painting and the ptgs still are sculptural. Wade: And obviously I can’t get away from plywood floors


Dec 27, 2008 9:17 pm

T. J. W: Are you still at work?


Dec 28, 2008 12:01 am

T. J. W: Ok I quit—write me something tomorrow


Dec 28, 2008 12:07 pm

T. J. W: OK 12 hour break—practically on vacation—back at it now

WG: Still on “vacation”… give me a couple hours for my brain to start up…


Dec 29, 2008 12:12 am

T. J. W: I’m turning into the Dracula of my studio bldg—I’m leaving at midnight again. Didn’t finish anything today. AND now you’ve got me talking to myself… Hope you were wiser than me and had a nice day off.


Dec 29, 2008 11:56 AM

T. J. W: Are you alive? Should I have the rivers dragged? Double murder suicide?


Dec 29, 2008 1:27 PM

WG: Double murder maybe triple. Sadly I’m still here… sorry to leave you talking to yourself. Stretching paintings here… As usual not sure how this show will turn out.


Dec 29, 2008 2:17 PM

T. J. W: Well that sounds like a good thing right? Or do you have a kind of ideal show preparation in mind where you know how it will all come together in advance? Wade: It’s rare that I don’t have to improvise on site. I can’t decipher floor plans or wall measurements either. I don’t know why I’m surprised.


Dec 29, 2008 6:25 PM

T. J. W: Are you having a hard time or are you hard at work?

WG: Both. I’m sorry


Dec 29, 2008 6:50 PM

TJ: First things first—no worries. Are you stretching or printing new?


Dec 29, 2008 7:21 PM

WG: Both. Trying to figure out how to make these red paintings work. Did I show them to u? Basically a monochrome but many layers of red, which is more transparent than the black ones. U saw the red white blue and black painting… this one is odd, been sitting in the studio for months—I still don’t think I’m ready to show it—or let it go anywhere. Maybe it was just not to have to look at black and white all the time. And the colors came from a one—off drawing I made a long time ago when I didn’t really know what I was doing. Or maybe it was an accident—hard to remember. Could have also gotten sick of what I was doing at that time too—or just wanted to undermine my own process or system… Like throwing a wrench into the machine intentionally just to see what happens—how you or the work adapts… And I think this is a little how I’m looking at this Marconi show. Still making the work I do, but letting it act differently, not so severe or self—confident as maybe the Portikus show was with the black paintings. Somewhat vulnerable, unsure—hopefully a productive outcome.


Dec 29, 2008 7:31 pm

WG: I met Ellsworth Kelly the other night and I saw an amazing room of his work at this private museum Glenstone… So I may just be working through my crush on him with these color paintings. He is really brilliant and cool.


Dec 29, 2008 10:00 PM

T. J. W: What a super

T. J. W: Sorry false start

T. J. W: How lucky to meet Mr Kelly—of course you have a crush on him—when I saw the new paintings in your studio his work was part of our conversation—and now you’ve literally had a conversation. I live around the corner from Cecily Brown and so shared a taxi with her the other day—as we were getting out she grabbed my arm and said “oh my god look—there’s Robert Ryman. He lives near here and I always think of it as a signal day when I see him”. I’m glad I’m not the only geeky artist fan. I remember meeting Jasper Johns in an informal small group—he too is ever brilliant and charming and I couldn’t believe he and I were speaking.


Dec 29, 2008 10:26 PM

T.J.: Two things on what you said—I was describing my new drawings to you the other day since you haven’t seen them yet. They are collages of varying sizes, with subjects drawn from the new film, as I’ve shown in the past, but I’ve started to print the images I use on acetate—so the drawings are like very oversized frames of film. The images are bright and lustrous yet the inks I’m using are slightly transparent so light passes through and illuminates the work. They’re like miniature films—or films in a single frame. The reason I mention them is that like your red paintings I haven’t exhibited them before—and I think its interesting that we’re using Milan as a place to complicate our art making—more interesting than pulling things from the corners of our studios.

T.J.: The other thing I wanted to mention was that I noticed as I made this work it evolved from a very limited palette of black and white with sometimes gold sometimes blue. Anyway, as I worked, the drawings became much more vivid until the last (which I’ve just finished)—I found myself a little taken aback to be working with so much color… But how odd we should be so severe and not open that door… Anyway I’ll look forward to seeing u in red. (though you hardly picked a wallflower color for post black… When you’re on to mauve call me).

T.J.: Its 10:37 and I’m leaving the studio. Because of shipping deadlines I can’t do any more drawings for Italy—after tomorrow I’m back to full-time editing.


Dec 30, 2008 2:25 pm

WG: I don’t think my red paintings will be dry for Milan—Will have to abandon that possibility. Too many layers of ink—and not happy with them


Dec 31, 2008 6:15 pm

T.J.: Happy New Year Wade! We’re happily snow bound in Orient… Have you gone upstate? Anyway—hope you have fun tonight and are forgetting our deadline for awhile. I thought the new color paintings look great—I’m looking forward to seeing them and you again soon.


Jan 2, 2009 2:26 pm

T. J. W: Ola—what’s up?


Jan 2, 2009 2:40 pm

WG: Sorry I went upstate—no service


Jan 3, 2009 2:21 pm

T. J. W: So just had time to figure out tomorrow—could meet you around 3 if that’s good for you? Do you need download help?


Jan 4, 2009 1:45 pm

T. J. W: Hey—we’re getting a late start—in the car now—may be there by 3 but lets say 3:30—I’ll have Todd drop me at your studio if that works for you (I’m assuming that’s what you meant by ‘yours’—not your apt)

WG: Perfect. I’m here.


Jan 4, 2009 2:35 pm

WG: Bad news. The app isn’t working. Tried to export conversation but weirdly only getting our really old text mssgs—up to mid—Nov. I think problem with software updates with itunes or OSX

WG: I can look back at a lot of my paintings—and I can tell at certain points there is a change in the quality of the print—or some abrupt change in the image and it has to do with software updates.

I always forget to not upgrade my software—it fucks everything up at one point I had one laptop that only ran the printer and it was really old operating system (10.3) and old printer driver bc it was the only way to make the paintings work. Then that computer was stolen and it was ridiculous to try to artificially go back to a more primitive system.


Jan 4, 2009 2:55 pm

WG: I just had this hilarious memory of you getting that Epson 9800 a couple years ago and I came over to help set it up. I remember how shocked i was at the computer u were using—i don’t remember what it was but it seemed SO old and then u didn’t have photoshop or anything—but somehow you were making all these prints with just preview! and using them for your films and collages it seemed so wrong to me—I never thought about how that jerry—rigged technology situation might have really been a big part of all that work. Really great.


Jan 4, 2009 2:58 pm

T. J. W: I always like to try and use a mix of old and new technology—in fact I’m trying to decide whether to drive to your studio or take the horse and buggy.


Jan 4, 2009 3:00 pm

WG: ugggghh. We may have to transcribe this thing by hand


Jan 4, 2009 3:30 pm

T. J. W: Great, I’ve brought my ink and quill.


Originally published on Mousse 17 (February-March 2009)


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