August 2 – September 4, 2019
Roll Up Project is pleased to present works on paper by Stephen Whisler. Whisler’s work explores surveillance, military strategy, ethics, and our understanding of modern warfare.
Whisler has created works on paper, sculptures, and performances as part of an ongoing investigation of military actions. Through all of them, the viewer can appreciate the formal aspects of the work – bold geometric shapes, richly colored and textured surfaces, and dazzling compositions – while considering the meaning behind images of war planes, atomic bombs, and other tools of destruction. Whisler’s tight focus forces us to confront the reality of modern warfare. In a plane or drone, the war is fought from a distance. Humans are far from sight. Up close, the ominous silhouettes and angular shapes of military equipment are imposing and hard to ignore.
Stealth 1 and Stealth 2, two pastel drawings of stealth bombers, are on view in the Harrison Street windows. To create these large-scale drawings, Whisler looks at imagery sourced from the internet, then draws them in Illustrator. He uses this hard-edge template to create the final large-scale drawings, which are rendered in thousands of pastel fingerprints. Whisler refers to fingerprints as “the most ancient ‘digital’ technique.”
Whisler’s imagery often forces the viewer to question whether they are a spectator or a target. In the Third Street windows, an oversize woodblock print entitled From a Great Height points to the ground, as if dropping from the sky. It is a rendering of the Fat Man bomb, which was dropped over Nagasaki in 1945. Even that dark moment in world history has not diminished the enduring threat of nuclear war, and Whisler’s print stands as a metaphor for the human toll of war games.
Presented without comment, the viewer can decide for themselves whether to identify the objects in the drawings as beautiful or sinister, or a combination of the two. In reviewing Whisler’s larger body of work, this series is part of an ongoing examination of physical force, power and methods of control. Whisler’s 1990s sculptures consider prisons and objects of containment, delivering another powerful critique of both self-induced and externally-induced control.
About the Artist
Stephen Whisler is a multimedia artist. He received an MFA from Claremont Graduate University, and a BA from UC Davis. His work has been exhibited at the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, San Jose, CA; University Art Gallery, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, CA; Madison Art Center, Madison, WI; The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, CT; the Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, CA; and the Berkeley Art Center, Berkeley, CA, among others. He lives and works in Napa.
Learn more about his work at stephenwhisler.net.