Harper’s is pleased to announce Begin the End, New York-based artist Demetrius Wilson’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. The presentation features new oil paintings by Wilson and opens Thursday, February 22, 6–8pm, with a reception attended by the artist.
In Begin the End, Wilson invokes a language of abstraction to trouble the definition of "apocalypse." The charged term derives from the Greek word, apokaluptein, which means to uncover or to reveal. In the biblical Book of Revelation, the phrase assumed its contemporary definition: the apocalypse describes the catastrophic destruction of the world. Raised Christian, Wilson speculated about end times throughout his upbringing, and today, defines the apocalypse as the culmination of the ceaseless decisions that plague everyday life. For Christians, an individual’s choices determine their afterlife: one could be subject to eternal life in heaven, hell, or in the existential limbo that occupies the in-between.
With Begin the End, Wilson imagines the unpredictable landscape at the end of the world. He heeds abstraction like a guide, letting his rambunctious mark-making and rich pigmentation direct pathways toward capricious futures. The resultant works are full of vigorous movement, recalling the expressive paint application one might find in the works of the action painters throughout the twentieth-century. The artist also cites the Baroque seventeenth-century painter, Peter Paul Rubens, as an influence whose depictions of war and violence inform Wilson’s foretelling of the final catastrophe.
But unlike the canon of yesterday’s religious painters, Wilson does not render the figure directly; rather, Wilson invokes the figurative as reference material. Animals, birds, humans, and other creaturely forms could be interpreted in his rapid marks. In Every Time You Call They Are Outside, Wilson applies luscious layers of red and coral pigments on top of shadowy greens and earthy yellows, recalling the fiery skies of the underworld. Black pigment spools from the scorched surface in the shape of a bucking horse. The scene is at once forlorn and full of life: movement establishes a gentle albeit temperamental composition.
This contentious movement resides at the pith of Begin the End. Within each work, Wilson negotiates pace and color with judicious tact. Surreal hues dash around earthly ones in his transient landscapes. They appear to foreshadow fantastical realities wherein migration is infinite. But so far, Wilson has already sojourned through many different homes and terrains within his lifetime. In this regard the end of the world is yet another story of displacement: one’s home in the next life is beyond individual control. Much like Wilson’s spontaneous language of abstraction, eternity remains in the precarious hands of fate.
Demetrius Wilson (b. 1996, Boston, MA) received a BA from College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, in 2018, and is currently an MFA candidate at CUNY Hunter College. Most recently, his work has been exhibited at Luce Gallery, Rome (2024); Taymour Grahne Projects, London (2023); Half Gallery, Los Angeles (2023); T293, Rome (2023); Bode, Berlin (2023); and Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans (2022). Wilson lives and works in New York City.