Ward Shelley Walks the Timeline

Sometimes art can convey a message in such a way that it's hard not to react. The following is art that needs to be engaged with, examined, studied, pondered, and digested; it's not going to simply hang on a wall and look pretty.

Ward Shelley is an artist who presents material in a very specifically framed manner; the pieces I've been drawn to are his unique timelines with their extravagant detailing and vast yet pidgeon-holed content. I'll let an excerpt from the artist's own "mission statement" do the explaining:

My paintings/drawings are attempts to use real information to depict our understandings of how things evolve and relate to one another, and how this develops over time. More to the point, they are about how we form these understandings in our minds and if they can have, in our culture, some kind of shape. Usually I choose topics from art or cultural history, such as the arc of an artist's career and its influences, or the effect of particular ideas in an aesthetic or political movement. They are "wide-screen", with all information available to the interacting eye at every moment.

Ward Shelley, Who Invented the Avant Garde, ver. 3. Oil and toner on mylar, 159 x 72 cm.

The format of the work seems to be inspired by botanical diagrams, scientific manuals, biological illustrations, and the long tradition of charts and mapping. From the outset, Shelley appears to be an engineer at heart, one who refused to choose the cubicle.

The connectivity of all the distinct bubbles and bits of information is the fascinating part. By showing us a macro view of a topic, Shelley let's the viewer filter out distractions and zoom in on the facts that propel the eye (and the mind) forward in time and in two-dimensional space while never quite letting us escape the weight of the "whole".

The very best examples I could find (with the finest resolution) are at the artist's webiste. The piece above, among others, is discussed in full in a press release issued by the Pierogi Gallery.

I came across post about Ward Shelley's timelines at kottke.org and that piqued my curiosity. There's plenty else to be interested about on that blog, as well, so give it a look.

Find out more at the Lawrimore Project with its close-ups of timeline details.

Read an interview by Chen Tamir found at TreviFlashArtMuseum.org

Visit Ward Shelley's official site at WardShelley.com

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