Daniel Wiener


What is more powerful than looking at someone face to face?

Two and a half years ago I began modeling and molding fantastical heads and faces. Originally the intellectual scaffolding for this project was to re-imagine the political villains of our time as grotesques and demons, much as Phillip Guston drew Richard Nixon in Poor Richard. I soon became entranced by both the formal possibilities and emotional power of facial structure. Despite distortion, two eyes, a nose, and a mouth create a form that is instantaneously and universally recognizable. As I asked myself how to capture the dark inner-workings of modern day bad boys, other influences took root: toothy Romanesque gargoyles, the hellish gods of Himalayan cloth paintings, the Rat Fink comics of Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth, and James Ensor’s paintings of masked revelers confronting death.

While I am best known as an abstract sculptor, crafting intricate, intense, visceral and colorful sculptures, integrating heads and faces into my sculpture has felt remarkably ‘right’ .The faces and heads I’ve made are far from traditional, and while they possess a directness that my previous, faceless work does not, they live on the edge of abstraction. They are anything but normal. My hope is that they expose and obscure emotion, often at the very same time.

An amphibious approach has been central to my practice for many years. Each piece is formed somewhere between accident and composition, between selection and serendipity. In all my work, large gestures of raw abandon are set alongside moments of delicate, intricate patterning.This inclusiveness does not stem from indecision or compromise, but rather from a belief in the value of the impure. As such, I find it reassuring that my heads or faces never seem to settle. No conventional beauty. But maybe provocative art.