Rose Wylie presents a suite of new works in “Which One,” the British artist’s fourth exhibition with David Zwirner and her first in New York. The title of the exhibition refers to Wylie’s method of choosing between drafts of a work, often photographing the canvases in stages and deciding on choices in form, composition, line, or color. The phrase might apply to her choice in subject matter, too: a relentless scrounger of news and the internet for source images, other works on view feature, among other subjects, her cat, Pete.
The work does not dictate a tone across the exhibition—Wylie’s paintings and drawings are set neither in a bucolic past nor a mythical realm. Red Plane and Runway, homage to Retablos painting (2020) [pictured], though a tribute to a kind of devotional painting, is set very much in the present: one large airplane is surrounded by more than a dozen small ones grounded on the tarmac, due to, as she writes in sweet, slightly child-like cursive across the bottom of the canvas, COVID-19-induced “limited travel.” Elsewhere, Illuminated Manuscript, Adam and Eve (2020) is left largely bare, with a burnt sienna outline of a barrel-chested Adam and a radish-shaped Eve, both with shrimpy arms, standing beneath the cryptic banner “HISTORY NO” in chunky black letters. If meant as a moralistic fable, it’s an odd one—the same golden-white which alights the snake also anoints their loincloths and his hair, and the mantra remains inscrutable.
Rose Wylie, Red Plane and Runway, homage to Retablos painting, 2020. © Rose Wylie. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner.