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From the Vault: Have you met Mr. Bones?

Today’s post comes from Patricia Phagan, the Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings.

William T. Wiley (American 1937- ) Mr. Bones, 1989 Woodcut with hand-coloring by the artist Printed at and published by Crown Point Press Printed by Lawrence Hamlin Edition of 25 74 ¼ x 25 inches (sheet) Purchase, Dexter M. Ferry Collection Fund 2008.22

Pardon me a minute for veering away from “curator speak”, but every time I see William Wiley’s Mr. Bones a twangy cowboy tune starts playing in my head…. Yes, it’s “Git Along Little Doggies” by TV and film star Roy Rogers traipsing melodically through verse after verse of a cowpuncher finding homes for orphaned calves (or doggies). I imagine the six-foot-tall skeleton in Wiley’s Mr. Bones is also bent on finding everyone new homes sooner or later….  But for now he wears unforgettable cowboy garb complete with lanky legs covered in fancy decorated boots and a fuming cigar while looking to the side with hands-on-hip and contemplating, “Who is not a visitor?”

Along with Bruce Nauman, Robert Arneson, and Roy DeForest, Wiley was part of the San Francisco Funk movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He and others chose to work with humor and personal, figurative imagery at a time when more serious-minded movements such as minimalism and conceptual art dominated much of the art discourse.  Irreverent and original, Wiley has made a prominent body of prints throughout the years, working frequently since the 1970s with Landfall Press in Chicago and Crown Point Press in San Francisco. Humorous yet serious defines Wiley’s thoughtful approach to his prints as well as his paintings, sculpture, set designs, and films.

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