Neville Wakefield Wants His MTV

Neville Wakefield for MTV RE:DEFINE

The wide-ranging curator Neville Wakefield has put on shows everywhere from the desert of Marfa to the slopes of Gstaad. Just right now, he is juggling gigs at Red Bull Studios in New York, Playboy, and a biennial in Palm Springs, with Ed Ruscha no less. Then, there’s MTV’s Re:Define auction, which he is curating in Dallas on April 8. Like any curator with a wandering eye, he relies on his artist friends from all over to replenish his visual well. Here, Wakefield gives us an exclusive preview of the auction, which is also live on Paddle8, and a piece of the sentimental history tied to each work.


I was talking to Will Boone during the installation of his recent show with Pope.L at Andrea Rosen. When I told him about MTV RE:DEFINE he instantly and generously offered to contribute; what he ended up giving could hardly be more appropriate. One of the last of the letter-based paintings, the upside down “t” and “x” make the perfectly inverted fu—ked-up hieroglyph of his native state.

Will Boone’s “tx,” 2015.


Also from Texas, Mark Flood knows how to mess with conventions. Equal parts Walter Hopps and John Lydon, his meticulously rendered confections of lace and paint layer punk and sophistication in ways that continually excite and surprise.

Mark Flood’s “In The Forest,” 2016.


Like the Texans, Helmut Lang also understands the elegiac potential of destruction.I remember visiting him shortly after his own self-imposed version of shock and awe had left his entire archive of some thirty years shredded into confetti size pieces. I was both shocked by the audacity and later awed by the strange looking sculptures that appeared to be extruded from the remnants of his past.

Helmut Lang’s “Untitled,” 2015.


Ever since a studio visit of a few years ago, I’ve been a fan of Matthew Cerletty’s strange and disconcerting paintings that seem to have arisen as if from Magritte being stuck for endless hours in front of bad American sitcoms. The situation here is that of Linda stuck in perpetual double entendre …

Mathew Cerletty’s “Linda Loves Learning,” 2013.


Another modest but no less engaging piece is Peter Coffin’s Untitled (3D Gods Eye) sculpture. Here Peter’s unique capacity to commingle NASA and community crafts projects strikes again, this time with a dream-catcher eye woven of sticks, yarn and ancient tradition.

Peter Coffin’s “Untitled (3D God’s Eye)”


The first pieces of Sam Moyer’s that I came across were made of moving blankets that she’d dyed, manipulated, and stretched in the basement of her Brooklyn apartment. Since then she’s added the things they were probably intended to move, and the paintings have expanded to become collages of fabric, paint, and stone. And to me they are some of the best around, both delicate and muscular and full of substance and contradiction.

Sam Moyer’s “One for Riga,” 2016.


One of the first David Benjamin Sherry photographs I came across was a tableau of colored fruit surveyed by the artist’s genitals. Since then he has taken to landscape, obsessively photographing the mountains, deserts, and rock formations of the American West. Photographs such as the one here remind me of Antonioni’s Zabriski Point, and the hallucination of freedom and escape that our love affair with raw nature so willingly affords.

David Benjamin Sherry’s “All The Words Float In Sequence,” 2014.


Rob Pruitt. What can I say? Cocaine buffets, pandas, googly eyes, flea markets, ‘kitlers’, Rumspringa quilts, painted recycled tires, black hearts … pretty much everything that first drew me to America! What’s not to like?

Rob Pruitt’s “Love and Mercy,” 2016.


I knew Rafael Rozendaal’s work from his shimmeringly immersive video installations in which he uses projected light to dissolve architecture into his own version of a light and space relational aesthetic. It wasn’t until I asked him to contribute to RE:DEFINE that I became aware of his lenticular “paintings.” Combining the somatic and the perceptual, their restless abstraction speaks to the constantly shifting sand of an information age that both captures the body and seduces the eye.

Rafael Rozendaal’s “Into Time 14 07 09,” 2014.


I met Kon Trubkovich shortly before giving him one of his first solo exposures at MoMA PS1. The centerpiece of that show was a video titled “Repeat Offenders,” which showed in grainy video a fugitive endlessly pursued through the woods. Since then his drawings have retained the texture and noise of early VHS, while discarding the content. Untitled (Green Snow) perfectly synthesizes these inside and outside worlds.

Kon Trubkovich’s “Untitled (green snow),” 2014.


It’s hard not to fall under the trance of Wendy White’s hybrid paintings. The imagery, where it exists, draws on a typical man-cave vocabulary of athletics, branding, and architecture. But the paintings themselves complicate the male-constructed space by folding it into the world around them. “Granite” does something similar. Hanging a thought-bubble abstracted question above an atmospheric field, its gilt frame reflects the world that it’s not. Narcissism for food for thought …

Wendy White’s “Granite,” 2015.


Neville Wakefield


Whenever I’m in LA, which is more and more often, I try to visit Sterling Ruby in his Vernon studio. Not only does its physical scale give new meaning to the term studio industrial complex, but more satisfyingly the scale of invention matches that of the building. One recent visit I casually mentioned the Re:DEFINE cause. Some weeks later I received an image of TROUGH, a bronze sculpture that continues the artist’s ongoing exploration of repurposed studio materials. The object itself is based on one of the many cardboard troughs that were built to catch the run-off from the production of the artist’s poured-urethane sculptures. The finished bronze resembles both a bed and a grave. Like much of his work it finds the ordinary sublime, brought together in a singular act of transformation. The generosity of spirit that creates these kinds of works is also that which gives them away. Sterling is one of the rare artists who has both, and who would respond to a casual request with a truly museum quality work of art.

Sterling Ruby’s “TROUGH,” 2014.