William T. Wiley

I adore the current William T. Wiley retrospective at the National Museum of American Art, partially because I'm a sucker for all things cartoonesque, but also because he nails what absurdist art should be--namely, an engaging romp through someone's head, nonsense, contradictions and all. Even the exhibition title, "What's it all mean?" doesn't come across as a challenge to the viewer to come up with a plausible answer, but a question he's been mulling over thoughtfully. One of the treats of the exhibition are Wiley's notes--most of his work contains some sort of text wherein heated, and not-entirely-legible debates with himself occur. "No one is going to read all of this!" he proclaims in one piece. In another painting, he chides the viewer for looking at a particular spot on the canvas: "Why are you looking at this? There's nothing here!"