Jack the Pelican is delighted to present Richard Oliver Wilson’s New York debut exhibition, “Mr. Benn’s Spare-time Continuum.”
Have a cup of tea, sit back on the couch and escape into the spectacular musings of the quaintly naughty Mr. Benn. The timely anachronism of Richard Wilson’s mechanistic renderings of super-tech ideas points to Britain in an era when unassuming people lived in modest circumstances. ...It’s a remarkably different world than our own. ...Or is it?
In Richard Wilson’s magic show in a parlor, time twists as though in a giant feedback loop (like many of the pieces themselves). Then is now. This sparkly re-awakening to the gentle fictions of infinity, space/time-travel and immortality lives in intimate moments of shared escape—sweet and lovely as a ballroom dance or a nickelodeon theater.
The Mr. Benn of our title is a character from an early 70s BBC children’s series. He lives the mundane life of a bowler-hat bureaucrat, but each day on his way to work slips into a costume shop, where he tries on the clothing of another time and place, hence to be transported there and to get himself into troubling ‘situations’...There is nothing little about this man. —Until the shopkeeper returns and chastens him.
What Wilson presents is mischievous nostalgia at its best. The old meets the impossibly futuristic. It is as eccentrically discombobulated as steampunk. Instead of the coziness of a fire, there is a wondrously contrived contraption of spinning mirror ball and crystal—an eclipse that casts colored lights like liquid syrups and polka dots around the room.
Across the way, his notably oversized Pointilist excursion into a Star Trek teleporter dissolves the landing team into a no-man’s land between here and nowhere—it is a far cry from its inspiration, that emblem of leisure—Seurat’s Afternoon on the Island of Grande Jatte. Meanwhile, a laptop video graphically dramatizes the joyous syncopations of a jazz age concertina in sync to the amplified tocking swings of his pendulum clock. On another wall, a digital collage replaces the signature globe of the 1963 World’s Fair with a tea kettle and cozy. —All is suspiciously well.
Daydreamers of the world unite. What else have we got left? Wilson’s homemade high-tech domestic is erotic, sublime and magnificently hopeful. In pointed contrast to cynical fabricators of contemporary spectacle (e.g. Olympic fireworks), he leaves much to the imagination. At issue is the character of our wonder. How we have come to marvel—have we been smug?—at the ease with which the folks of the generations before us contented themselves with simple pleasures! Now, as our delusions of affluence begin to collapse, we confront the irreality of our own self-aggrandizing idealizations and aspirational life-style images. In this context, we applaud Wilson’s display as a smackingly unpretentious homage to the ever curious Mr. Benn.