Paul Weiner Paul Weiner

Artist Statement

My paintings, videos, and sculptural works grapple with America’s contemporary identity and history, generating abstracted, obscured, and distressed representations of a culture in turmoil. I repurpose traditional symbols of American exceptionalism, such as the flag, money, sports, folk history, and legal system to express violence, shame, and frustration. Often, I appropriate objects representative of these symbols and embed them within paintings and sculptures.

The primary focus of my practice is a form of abstract painting that is imbued with political and social meaning, simultaneously riffing on neo-expressionism and post-conceptual painting. The cannibalistic process for my canvases feeds off a hectic and borderline violent studio where I prime raw canvases by throwing them into expanses of studio detritus and let them develop patinas over the course of months. I appropriate symbols of American life and embed them in the depths of my works to create a self-awareness by monoprinting the American flag directly onto the canvas and screen printing or transferring digital images of Americana over the top. I scratch giant willow charcoal branches against the canvas, developing repetitive lines that reference underlying symbols, such as the flag, while creating a frustrated, maximalist aura of intense motion. This action leaves a cacophony of marks, which are emphasized by thick, impasto painterly marks and small sculptural details like tar and feathers, torn flags painted black, or chunks of baseballs.

Simultaneously, I repurpose the American flags I use for monoprinting as works of their own. I stretch the flags, blackened with latex and oil paint over stretcher bars as relics of the printing process. These byproduct paintings build on the heritage of American flag painting. By using the flag as a material rather than an illusionistic or pictorial element of the painting, I advance the formal conversation on the flag’s removal from the pictorial space to both pay homage and taunt Jasper Johns. These works are controversial in their critique of the flag as an untouchable symbol because I use a process that would have been considered illegal flag desecration until the Supreme Court cases of Texas v. Johnson (1989) and US v. Eichman (1990). My intent, however, is to create an introspective position for my viewers who, often for the first time, have to confront the flag as an object that has not been treated sacredly or preciously. These works sometimes also become sculptural installations, where the flags are hung in multiples as banners, as though they are on view at a sporting event or military parade.

My artistic practice extends further into video and sculpture. I create video montages where I sample and layer videos from social media, youtube, and legal evidence to build illustrations of American life. My sculptures reposition American symbols in the gallery as found objects that are usually edited in one way in order to provoke a critique or contextual shift. These works, like my flags and paintings, ask the viewer to reconsider the meaning behind the embedded American symbols we are taught to revere.