Paintings by Wayne Paige

Exhibition review by Jo Ann Lewis

The Washington Post, February 13, 1982

If Bill Woodwards’s paintings exude old-world calm, there is a sense of new-world hysteria in the intriguing work of Wayne Paige, now on view at Gallery K, 2032 P St. NW.  In his last show, Paige proved himself a highly idiosyncratic artist whose paints (with free-form, papier-mâché frames attached) were best described as “social surrealism”- social comment inspired by some of the more fearsome aspects of contemporary life- but expressed in terms of half-real, half-imagined images that were, in the end, rather funny.  The painting of a wart-covered high-rise building chasing a couple through Central Park stands out as one of the more memorable examples.

In his current show, Paige has pursued the same themes, but in a seemingly more serious and complex way, and in a more elegant format.  The small, biomorphically shaped frames are now carved and smoothly finished from walnut, and then stitched (or burned with graffiti-like half-sentences that relate loosely to the pictures that go within them- sometimes tow or three to a frame.  A liner of gold leaf separates the frames from the paintings, lending the semi-precious look of old manuscript miniatures.  Until you get up close.

And then the visual shriek begins, through it is rarely clear exactly what the artist is railing at in these daytime nightmares, beyond a general loathing of greed and war and destruction- which seems to be everywhere and inevitable to a seemingly helpless, hapless mankind.  City skylines are aflame as people run screaming into manholes along with frightened animals.  “The History of Chewing Gum” was one of the more explicit narratives, beginning with the birth of the pink stuff under a palm tree, and ending up being offered by a helmeted soldier to a naked, emaciated child- an act which has no doubt taken place in every war since gum was packaged.  “Moongoggles Gift” and “Dr. Lungs Atomic Eggroll”.  I leave others to decipher, noting that the results may be elusive, but that the hunt can most provocative and rewarding.

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