Cinema of the Soul—Interview with Tod Wizon

Details of three paintings by Tod Wizon (l to r): Ferris Wheel (2006), Gape (2006), and Harbor Bells (2006). Photos courtesy of the artist

By Sarah Schmerler

Tod Wizon doesn’t want a bio of the sort most artists want; that said, let’s give a quick rundown of his artworld accomplishments—all the better for you to grasp how little these sorts of things truly mean to him: Wizon is 59; he’s shown extensively with well-regarded galleries like Bruno Bischofberger (Zurich), Annina Nosei, Jack Tilton, and Phyllis Kind; and he’s been reviewed in Art in America, ArtForum, and ARTNews. But more importantly, after 30-plus years of being “in” or “out” of the spotlight, he’s thoroughly entrenched in his craft.

Translation: Tod Wizon Paints. Every Day. Every Single Day. Usually for eight hours. This means that he talks and walks and smokes and otherwise wrestles with the sorts of profundities all painters worth their salt have wrestled with on a daily basis, across Time. (Isn’t that what every painter’s bio should say?) Wizon feels that his efforts, when successful, afford him access to an incredibly rarified and ineffable place—a space where he feels free to lose his Self and, in the process, find Form. But my impression is just the opposite. He “loses” himself from Form’s confines and, in the process, exposes Self. Either way, it’s much the same thing: Wizon doesn’t want to talk, he wants to paint. And when he paints, it’s all good.

As we talk, I try not to let my consciousness fly out the window of his incredibly spare, whitewashed apartment, but I don’t succeed. Two ferries are passing each other in New York Harbor—a stunning view from the curtain-less windows of his tenth-story aerie. The sunlight is at that late- morning, bluish-white pitch that’s perfect for looking at, and making, paintings. There’s only one coffee cup on the window sill (mine), there’s only one chair in the room (I’m sitting in it), and the bookcases in the hall are stacked with CDs (visionary pop, avant-garde jazz, obscure rock-n-roll)— all of them music to paint by. Wizon definitely seems to want to talk to me, or rather, have a meaningful dialog, about painting. At the same time, he makes it clear that he doesn’t want to sit as the subject of an Interview. It’s hard not to comply. Everything around us is conspiring to become a mix of light, texture, and contemplation.

“Spaciousness,” Wizon opines. “I’m seeking the kind of spaciousness that occurs in music when it’s all over—and there’s only quiet left.”

I close my laptop with a dull thud (“Do you think you have enough to write about?” he asks, with genuine concern), but not before I glean a couple of key points, which I pass on to you here. All of Wizon’s paintings are identified by number—and the numbers are now well in the thousands (at press time, 1,418). In 1977, he made “No. 1,” a self-portrait, and it’s on this image that all his subsequent paintings have been based. “No. 1″ is pretty small, and he let me hold it in my hands. In it, the artist depicts himself in jacket, rolled up jeans, and lace-up shoes, standing in a verdant and vaguely industrial landscape (not unlike the railroad-bridge-dappled vistas in low-lying parts of New Jersey that border the Hudson). Over the years, Wizon has looked into the greenery surrounding his visage and extrapolated, extracted from it. For him, all the subsequent numbered abstractions are also self-portraits—albeit of a more inner territory; and, begrudgingly for Wizon, but luckily for us, they’ll be leaving his studio. Catch them at the WG Gallery at 50-52 Dobbin Street, the first two weekends in May.

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