Display Cases in the Great Hall: Exhibition Archive

Insult Paintings by William Hempel

February 14th, 2015 - March 21st, 2015


When William Hempel returned to New York after seven years living abroad, he was struck by the casual and constant use of insults. This series of paintings emerged from his experience of language, and its permutations, as the artist experienced harsh words in common parlance, called out loud on streets among friends and strangers every day in public and private in the City.

Each small painting has the same dimensions. The panel depths vary, implying the hurt of the words, how deeply they penetrate as they are uttered. Contained on the handcrafted wooden panel is a single word, appearing in the top register of a two-color field, lovingly painted with stencil. The act of stenciling the words on carefully prepared panels, in rich colors of diverse media, is an echo of mechanical repetition of these words in daily speech, where it is all too easy to repeat such insults. Yet Hempel makes them into icons, with care, restoring and reframing meaning. The contrast between harsh intent, and sensitive or careful transmission of words onto prepared ground, reiterates the loving transfer of what is spoken and experienced into a written word, created in rich clear tones and old master materials.

Case One:
FOOL, shellac, gesso, poppy oil, matte damar varnish, 2” deep
IDIOT, oil primer, cold wax, 2” deep
JERK, oil primer, stand oil, 2.5” deep

Case Two:
SHITHEAD, glue, gesso, safflower oil, retouch varnish, 1” deep
ASSHOLE, glue, oil emulsion gesso, walnut oil, gloss damar varnish 1.5” deep
SCUMBAG, glue, gesso, casein, casein varnish, 1.5” deep
All 10 x 10 inch wooden panels.

All Works Courtesy of the Artist.
Artist websiteOpen link in new window
Curated by Lisa A. Banner