Solo Shows

In his own words: William Powhida’s paradox

William Powhida, installation view. All images courtesy of Charlie James.

This season William Powhida presents a new body of work at Charlie James in LA that departs from his familiar drawings-on-notebook-paper style. The new paintings and screen prints, still text-based, introduce color in a mash-up of early Ed Ruscha’s 1970’s text paintings and archly amateurish, font-happy typographic design.  

As he explains below, the text is culled from his prickly Twitter feed, which he has actively maintained since joining in 2009:�

From the Artist�s Desk October 13th, 2015:

Nearly a decade ago I authored an artistic persona in the form of �William Powhida� to critique and satirize the seemingly incompatible class relations in the art world. While my early works were framed in drawings and paintings that borrowed forms from traditional print media, I later began to blur the boundary between my public and private �character� through social media, particularly Twitter. The Twitter platform was perfectly suited to short quips, prescriptive statements, and immediate judgments about the economy, politics, and of course, art. By using the platform for shit-talking, antagonizing other art world figures, and generally embodying the character William Powhida, any critical distance between life and work slowly eroded into a kind of generic oppositional and contrarian voice. The character William Powhida on Twitter was not so different from the artist William Powhida as critical troll. This convergence of my personal views and that of my fictional character have also mirrored the unsettling alignment of my critique of the art world and the trajectory of my art career. Despite the critical attitudes in the work, my reliance on sales and expectations for traditional forms of artistic success have diminished the very possibility of legitimate critique.

My new body of work for Charlie James is centered around a conversation both visual and textual between myself, William Powhida (my bad idea), aesthetics (other people�s bad ideas), and the prevalence of the object in a post-internet (tech�s bad ideas), socially mediated / market oriented art world (Capitalism�s bad ideas). This ambivalent discourse is composed through a series of paintings that draw text fragments from my Twitter archive between 2009 and the present as well as a series of self-reflective You/I statements on paper. –William Powhida

William Powhida, installation view.
William Powhida, The Life of the Artist is Content, 2015, acrylic on paper, 20 x 13 inches.


In addition to the paintings, the show includes four sculptures that recall the crumpled paper pieces on view in “Overculture,” his 2014 exhibition at Postmasters.

This painting, included in the PDF catalog for the show, is called Blue Redacted. Clearly Powhida is thinking about the contradiction inherent in his situation: on the one hand, he is loath to stifle his ongoing critique of the art world; on the other, he courts commercial success. Logically, the critique is sustainable only in relative failure. With his newfound candor, Powhida seems to be coming to that realization. Which way he will break remains to be seen.

William Powhida: Mediations,” Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. Through December 5, 2015. Full PDF version of the exhibition catalog is available here.


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