December 29, 2019
Not That We Don’t
In the series of paintings Not That We Don’t, Wise continues her exploration into portraiture, landing on the unspoken dynamics that maintain the individual’s participation amongst the group, allowing for their seemingly fluid existence in society. Placed within a space of ambiguity, Wise’s subjects flirt with legibility; their gathering suggesting a familiar event such as a party, theatrical production, or a yearbook photo, only to deny the grounds for any such staged communion.
" And while the lush environments of Wise’s paintings signal the comfort of cleanliness, the appearance of Kleenex or Purell speaks to a violence festering below the surface should one not adhere to implied regulation."
Throughout her work, Wise’s sitters share a stage with a medley of recognizable goods, codifying their contemporaneity. In this series, subjects are framed alongside diverse products of sanitization – from disinfectant to Saran wrap. Speaking to their ethnographic corollary in 1954, Roland Barthes posited that the advertisement of soaps and other “purifying products” covertly enforced a violent eradication of threatening entities. Soap, for Barthes, was no different than other value-based institutions in which we are asked to place our trust, like religion or state; refuges which protect us from the threat of abjection, impurity, and chaos. And while the lush environments of Wise’s paintings signal the comfort of cleanliness, the appearance of Kleenex or Purell speaks to a violence festering below the surface should one not adhere to implied regulation. The commingling of multiple persons and detergents is a reminder of the implicit management that enables cooperation to extend into control.