Precise Imprecision: Andy Moon Wilson on Simon Gouverneur

Andy Moon Wilson, Untitled, 2010 | Colored pencil on paper, 10 x 10 inches. Courtesy the artist and Curator's Office, D.C.

Andy Moon Wilson, featured in edtion #45 of New American Paintings, owes a debt of gratitude to abstract symbolist painter Simon Gouverneur (1934-1990). That's the idea behind Debt: Simon Gouverneur and Andy Moon Wilson, currently on view at Curator’s Office in Washington, DC. The show features works by Moon Wilson that, like Gouverneur’s paintings, allude to quantitative precision. Yet unlike Gouverneur, Moon Wilson is detached from the mystical symbolism that often characterized Gouverneur’s work. Nevertheless, the visual comparisons are exciting. I recently caught up with Moon Wilson to ask him about his current project and about the influence that Gouverneur has had on his work.  —Matthew Smith, DC contributor

(detail) Simon Gouverneur, Peyote II, 1985 | Egg tempera, graphite, and acrylic on canvas, 48in x 48in. Courtesy of the Estate of Simon Gouverneur and Curator’s Office, Washington, DC.

MS: When were you introduced to Simon Gouverneur's work and how has it influenced your art practice?
AMW: I first saw his work in a show at Curator’s Office. His work had a significant impact on me in that it helped reinforce, and in a way validate, a lot of my ideas about what is possible for a two-dimensional object when considered in the context of art. I was struck by his use of color and pattern, and especially by his mathematical approach to painting. For me, mathematics had always been a means to an end, rather than the primary mechanism for communicating the content of the work. Gouverneur helped me decide that the math itself was often enough. Judging from his work, he liked to dream and meditate in mathematical terms, and I do as well. Many of my drawings are artifacts of these ruminations.

(both) Andy Moon Wilson, Untitled, 2010 | Ink and acrylic on paper, 10 x 10 inches. Courtesy of Curator’s Office, Washington, DC.

Like Gouverneur’s paintings, much of your current work can also evoke images of artisanal hand-woven objects, albeit much more obliquely. Was this something that you were aware of from the start?
I have been a professional textile designer for the past ten years, so it is only natural that the language of weaving would [assert] itself into my work. Those are terms my mind is used to dealing with. I spend a lot of time living "in the grid", so to speak. I like the hand-made nature of Gouverneur's work—the precise imprecision of it. That is something I intentionally emphasize in my drawings. For a long time, I denied myself the use of mechanical tools—rulers, templates or a compass—because I wanted to explore the nuances of hand-drawn lines interacting with each other.

I have since relaxed this restriction, and feel that the use of mechanical tools opens up a world of potential that is otherwise impossible to achieve. I realized that even when I use tools evidence of the human touch is still very much present. It is simply impossible for the human body to replicate the unnatural perfection of a computer.

(both) Andy Moon Wilson, Untitled, 2010 | Ink and acrylic on paper, 10 x 10 inches. Courtesy of Curator’s Office, Washington, DC.

Color is is at the forefront of your current work. What draws you to these highly saturated palettes?
I use a very saturated, often florescent palette because it helps me avoid the cultural/historic associations of more subtle kinds of color relationships. I want to avoid, as much as possible, literal or illustrative interpretations of my work. If I were to use a subtle green and blue palette, for example, then I might unintentionally introduce associations  to landscape or botannical illustration, and all of the attendant baggage, which could distract the viewer. If I were to use a monochromatic red palette, as another example, then I would be referencing cultural associations with the color red- which vary from culture to culture, and don't have anything to do with what I'm trying to say. I use colors as signifiers or surrogates for various letters, numbers or symbols. Yellow means "X", blue means "3", green means "frog", or what have you. I use the brightest, purest, most saturated colors I can find to represent pure forms, and then shades in between to suggest interactions.

Andy Moon Wilson, Untitled, 2010 | Ink and acrylic on paper, 10 x 10 inches. Courtesy of Curator’s Office, Washington, DC.

The individual pieces in your current project are almost exclusively small in scale. Why?
Because I don't have a studio, which would allow me to work on larger works undisturbed for the length of time necessary to generate them. Smaller works allow me to explore various ideas in a reasonable window of time and space.

Conceptually, your current work is much more subtle and understated than the previous project you exhibited at Curator’s Office. Why the departure?
Because my work is in a constant state of growth and maturation. I structure my work in projects. The project on view in the current show at Curator’s Office deals specifically with my work's relationship with Simon Gouverneur. I have lots of other projects I'm working on, I have just refrained from presenting unrelated pieces in that particular context. Andrea [Pollan, director of Curator’s Office] has over a thousand other pieces of mine that don't have anything to do with Simon Gouverneur in her flat file, that visitors to the show can see if they want. We just chose to highlight this particular aspect of my work.

Andy Moon Wilson, Untitled, 2010 | Ink and acrylic on paper, 10 x 10 inches. Courtesy of Curator’s Office, Washington, DC.

Is the concept of precision important to your work?
Yes, very. To be a little more specific, the concept of "precise imprecision" is important to me. The imperfect perfection visible in all [of] nature. There are no truly straight lines or perfect circles in nature. Perfection is a conceptual conceit that only exists in the mind of man. Complex interactions of competing forces arriving at a state of approximate, ever shifting equilibrium is the true nature of the universe, as far as I can tell.

Andy Moon Wilson was featured in edition #45 of New American Paintings. His exhibition, Debt: Simon Gouverneur and Andy Moon Wilson, is on view at Curator’s Office, Washington, DC, through February 12, 2011.

Matthew Smith is an artist and writer in Washington, DC and a frequent contributor to DCist.


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