Not Waving But Drowning
Douglas Rieger & Eric Wiley
curated by Nicole Grammatico and Christina Papanicolaou
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Oh, no no no. It was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith
E.TAY Gallery is pleased to present Not Waving But Drowning, a two-person exhibition featuring Douglas Rieger and Eric Wiley, curated by Nicole Grammatico and Christina Papanicolaou. The show grapples with the dilemma of the individual and their relationship to society as pressure mounts to construct a moral identity in our hyperconnected world. Both Rieger and Wiley seek to navigate the social maze of our need for acceptance and fear of rejection through humor that is both dark and bawdy.
Douglas Rieger is a sculptor who uses wood, metal, silicone and leather to create works inspired by industrial machinery and the hardware used to build it, from electrical conduit and plumbing valves to motor casings and gaskets. His work is contrarian in nature. It is both aggressive and languid, utilitarian and abstract. But the pieces also exude a conflicted sexuality that are perversely swollen and humorously flaccid. Rieger’s mechanistic sculptures are not meant to convey logic, but rather the dialogue between the machine and its operator. The works are the personification of their creators. He believes that every product retains qualities from the individual who designed and fabricated it.
Eric Wiley pulls his imagery from the ether, exploring the gaps between what one sees and the words they use to describe it. His paintings are deliberate and nonsensical. Each stroke carries intention and conviction, yet the stories that unfold can be confusing and implausible. If the meaning in the narrative is too clear then he feels he has failed. However, the subjects are vivid and eerie, as if he’s captured a dreamscape that most struggle to describe once they
wake. Still, Wiley wants the viewer and not the artist to complete the circuit of understanding.
Stevie Smith’s poem, Not Waving But Drowning, aptly expresses the same tone as Rieger and Wiley’s world: humor attracts us, then leads us to a place of repressed desire and yearning. As societal pressure shapes our self-consciousness, we are compelled to construct an acceptable identity that ultimately shields us from absolute freedom. In the same way that we build machines or infrastructure to progress as a society, we build up artifice and armor to avoid the isolating flaw of misunderstanding or being misunderstood by our peers. Rieger and Wiley aim to pierce through this “armor,” giving us a glimpse at what freedom from fear of non-moral acceptance might look like. Their playful surrealism softens the deviance and perversion that is inherent in their work, luring the viewer into their dystopian worldviews that live on the periphery of our own reality.