When I arrived in New York City in the early 70s—fresh from a very different cadence that was life on the Other Coast—my first roommate was another artist. George Wingate rented me my first berth on the Upper West Side of Manhattan for $87.50 a month, and we went on to become friends for life. He was studying with two larger-than-life teachers, Henry Pearson and Frank Mason, so many of my first friends in New York were artists I met through him. And it does not seem like a random event that both of us ended up leaving Manhattan and living out our lives in the Boston area. Our mutual geography has been fortuitous.
George has many talents, but lately he has been mastering the one day pop up exhibit. On Saturday in Gloucester he orchestrated his third event over the last few years. (Words and images about his previous two exhibits are posted here and here.) George’s sensibilities are quick, quirky and startlingly fresh. And while his work is uniquely and inviolately Wingatian, he also offers up a respectful nod to many of the artists we both love—Richard Tuttle, Barnett Newman, Lee Bontecou, John Cage, Joan Mitchell, among others.
Driving up to see this exhibit staged in an emptied 18th century space (The White-Ellery house is part of by the Cape Ann Museum), I listened to an entire episode of This American Life devoted to the tale of an abandoned house in Freedom New Hampshire. The storyteller was 11 years old when he first encountered it, and the house and the family who had abandoned it became an obsession and a haunted thread in his life and the lives of his friends. This hour long radio program was the perfect preamble to George’s very personal and provocative conversation with this aged and evocative structure, one that has had its own complex history. Demonstrating respect for the solemnity of its bare essence, George found a way to nudge, tease, prod and engage that structure into an adventure in looking and seeing.
This show had an extra feature that George has not explored in his two previous pop up exhibits: Sound. Sitting monk-like on the floor in an upstairs room, Gordon Williams was surrounded by simple tools for sounding, creating a backdrop of noises that were suggestive of “house language”: obscure knockings, cranked up hammerings, tinny creaks, all reminding us that every structure has a space and spirit of its own which sometimes comes with a soundtrack. This house, for one day, was given a playful festooning and memorable voicing that was both aural and visual.
This portfolio of images speaks best for yet another memorable Wingatian visual exposé.