Joseph Olisaemeka Wilson Takes Us to “Wali’s Farm”

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Earlier this year, the painter Joseph Olisaemeka Wilson stood out to us as one of the standouts at the Independent Art Fair in NYC. The fantastical paintings had an almost dusty, Wild West of the future storyline, and as we featured him in our A Portfolio section this spring, there was something that was coming through in Wilson’s narrative. I kept thinking of The Road, a tale of science fiction meets the reality of the contemporary moment, familiar but also a distance that creates a sense of disbelief. Is this happening? Can this happen? In Wali’s Farm, Wilson’s newest body of work at Derek Eller Gallery, we get some answers but also the ability as the viewer to imagine and enter a universe that is quiet and poetic but also hazy and psychedelic. 

Joseph writes as part of a short story about the works, “But Wali had decided that it was not just a vague familiarity which made his mind tingle, but an acute sense of identity. It was impossible for Millet to have painted this picture without knowing of Wali’s existence, as every aspect of the image was exactly as it appeared in Wali’s life. And the central figure was, obviously, Wali. This frightened Wali immensely because Jean Françoise Millet lived and died some time before he was born, and lived very far away.”

The NYC-based painter is working in two realms, painter and writer, a rural imaginary community that is not utopian or dystopian, but a contrast to the Hudson River School paintings centuries before. —Evan Pricco

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