May 19, 2022

Making an effort to see: W. Tucker at Big Medium

In a body of work both elemental and singular, a conscious effort to pay attention


When W. Tucker had a solo exhibition at Texas State Galleries in 2012, he spent almost a week living in the gallery, sleeping every night on a modest pad, showering at the university’s athletic facility

The gallery’s then-director Mary Mikel Stump had invited Tucker to consider the entire gallery his palette. And so to know the space better, to let his imagination run free and deep, he set up camp.

Tucker draws and paints on anything and everything: scraps of lumber, vintage dice and dominoes, all manner of paper ephemera including book and record covers, postcards or elementary school flashcards. At Texas State, he used the walls for enormous painted works — and he drew on an exit sign and in the tiny space between a pair of light switches.

Whether wall-sized or miniature, Tucker’s loose lines have a seemingly childlike quality. His images feature a small cast of characters and things, his own catalog of archetypes: a man with a hat; an animal that may or may not be a rabbit and which occasionally wears boxing gloves; a boat (lots of boats); a car; an elephant; a chicken (sometimes with or without its body); clouds.

And while there’s some immediate whimsy to Tucker’s iconography, his characters often seem a little forlorn, the situations slightly unsorted. Tucker always leaves a generous amount of open space in his compositions — hollows for the viewer’s own imagination to roam, to insert personal stories.

Tucker is right-handed but draws or paints with his left hand in order to upend any skill or proficiency. To combat the ambidexterity he’s developed, he’ll often hold a drawing implement or brush in an awkward grasp, jammed between middle fingers. He draws and paints with resin stick, charcoal, ink, colored pencil, china marker, watercolor, oil and acrylic.

In recent years he’s made small sculptures, assemblages of wood, cardboard and sometimes fabric, each piece often bearing a drawing. Mostly they are sculptures of boats — again whimsical yet clearly vulnerable to toppling over.

W. Tucker
W. Tucker’s exhibition “a cloud floats in / a ship passes by” at Big Medium. All images courtesy Big Medium.

W. Tucker

W. Tucker
A flotilla of W. Tucker’s small boat sculptures at Big Medium

Tucker never starts his art-making with a fixed idea or an intention. Instead he makes his marks until he feels an image is done. Nor does he offer any comprehensive definition of what his work is about. His is “a conscious effort to pay attention to how I go through life,” he writes in his exhibition statement. “This show represents this effort to see.”

I have a tiny piece by Tucker, barely an inch square, some kind of red resin toy block or perhaps a piece from a long-forgotten board game. An image of the rabbit-like figure is etched in white. On the back, in the tiniest imaginable hand-writing, Tucker inked its title.

Though I didn’t plan to meet up with Tucker at Big Medium, he happened to be there when I arrived to see his exhibition “a cloud floats in / a ship passes by.” And though we spoke some about his work, we mostly caught up: I hadn’t seen him since before the pandemic and as we walked around the show we shared stories of two socially distant years

W. Tucker

W. Tucker
W. Tucker’s “mine,” an in-situ installation at Big Medium. (wood blocks and resin stick o floor, 2022)

W. Tucker

At Big Medium, Tucker again commandeers any available surface and space. One corner of the gallery contains a mural. His man-in-the-hat hovers on an upper wall, above the big plate glass front windows, and likewise an elephant above the gallery’s rear exit door. A tiny double portrait — each silhouette framed by a cardboard slide sleeve — sits at floorboard level right as a wall turns a corner. All these site-specific drawings are ephemeral: They will disappear when the exhibition is over.

Tucker told me he was particularly enamored of the concrete support in the middle of gallery, its roughed-up surface rich with visual interest. He’s placed a small drawing on one side of the square pillar. Around the side, on the floor, is a tiny installation of wood blocks and on the floor, a resin stick drawing of a car.

Nearby are two bright blue child-sized chairs and there you sit, Gulliver-like, viewing the Lilliputian installation. There you sit making an effort to see.


“W. Tucker: a cloud floats in / a ship passes by” continues 12 noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays through April 9 at Big Medium, 916 Springdale Road. Admission is free. bigmedium.org


Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Jeanne Claire van Ryzinhttps://sightlinesmag.org
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.

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