Joseph E. Murphey
William T. Wiley is primarily known for mystical watercolors that whimsically move between references to pop culture, literature, and art history, though he has worked in a variety of media, including drawing, painting, sculpture, film, and performance. Though he was born in Indiana, Wiley is closely associated with the California Bay Area. After attending the San Francisco Art Institute (then known as the California School of Arts), Wiley, along with Robert Hudson, Bruce Nauman, Robert Arneson, and Roy DeForest, among others, formed the Bay Area Funk movement, which gained national notoriety after the infamous “Funk Art” exhibition in 1967 at the University Art Museum in Berkeley (now the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive). Often zigging when the established art world zagged, Wiley began creating large, unctuous paintings inspired by the Abstract Expressionist and Bay Area Figuration movements of the time, only to swiftly move away from them in the late ’60s to develop his cartoonish figurative style, which waned in popularity as Minimalist and Conceptual art became fashionable. From his abstract origins Wiley developed an eccentric and idiosyncratic range of absurd imagery and artistic styles, through which he comments on current political and environmental affairs.
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