Artist and fashion designer Victor Wilde is inspired by the potential of mercurial materials as he applies a process of scavenge, salvage, destruction, reconfiguration, redemption, appropriation, and transformation to the vast inventory of textiles, faux pelts, parachutes, used and vintage garments, accessories, street posters, fashion district tchotchkes, paints, purloined street posters, flags, model weapons, flamethrowers, polymers, and more that fills his DTLA studio. He applies this post-punk creative mode equally to clothing and fine art, believing the two to have in fact always been inextricable. Painting on clothes, printmaking on found images, sewing works on paper, affixing garments to canvas and photographs to garments, making narrative plushies and crafty homespun weaponry out of left-overs, lambasting authority and late-stage capitalism with a caustic arte povera wink and a flair for the dramatic—it’s all one big idea.
Wilde last grabbed headlines for Bohemian Society’s radically inclusive L.A. Fashion Week presentation a few years ago (aka pre-Covid), but in his newest foray he returns to the world of art, as he opens Wilde America at REN Gallery this week. The show is a sophisticated but rough-edged suite of large mixed media (to say the least) paintings, sculptures, and bricolaged objects that have all been through the treatment and were exclusively made from found materials and remnants—with unexpectedly emotional, even beautiful results.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
VICTOR WILDE: I made my first piece of art when I was six years old. I was nosing around my grandfather’s garage and was fascinated by his collection of random objects. While he was distracted I grabbed a few small cans of car paint and applied them to a traffic cone. Gravity took hold and the paint wound up in a puddle on the pavement. Grandpa wasn’t thrilled but he thankfully didn’t scare me off either. That day I discovered my passion for the creative process, ultimately growing into a compulsion—an addiction even. That process and method remains with me to this day. Finding inspiration in utilizing what is available to tell my story. Found objects—I am obsessed with them. Tchotchkes, trinkets, knickknacks, ornaments, and junk fascinate and inspire me. My grandmother called me Victor Hands. I’m compelled to touch, play, experiment, learn, combine what is not meant to be naturally combined—objects of all kinds.
The object is something that presumably exists independent of the subject’s perception of it. In other words, the object would be there, as it is, even if no subject perceived it. Hence, objectivity is typically associated with ideas such as reality, truth, and reliability. In and of themselves they are inanimate but once placed in one’s hands, they are subject to the objective of the one who wields them. In my hands they become objets d’art.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I’m sorry, what?
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I actually went to art school for a few years, yes. I was thrown out—twice.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I’ve come to love Los Angeles. In the time I’ve been here it’s only become a better place to live. As an American, currently, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
When was your first show?
That’s tricky. Does performing at my aunt’s house for a Christmas display as a bear count?
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
Wilde America opens on May 20 at REN Gallery in DTLA. It’s a show about what it means to be American, the inventiveness of ad hoc, arte povera, prison yard craftsmanship and the aesthetic of punk couture as it manifested in the context of post-War American art. We’ll have programming throughout the run of the show (through June 25) including talks, issue-based fundraising, film and video, excerpts from the documentary United We Stand, about my cross-country journey as a street performer two weeks after 9/11, plus fashion happenings, music, workshops, and maybe even a little poetry.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
All of the Ninja Turtles. (Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo!)
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Music is very important to me. My taste is expansive. It’s immeasurable
Website and social media handles, please!
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