Building Metaphors
New Paintings by Bill Weiss
Saul Ostrow, 2001

By engaging painting's ability to depict a distinct image-world of its own, Bill Weiss signals that he has now adopted a perspective that is akin to that of the late 19th century Symbolists. Unlike the Surrealist painters, who embraced the irrational, artists such as Odilion Redon, James Ensor, Edvard Munch, and Henri Matisse, used exaggerated psychological imagery to express emotional states and sensations. The resulting amalgam of real and imagined elements were meant to indicate a credible though ephemeral vision that would give a truthful representation to immaterial existence.

Weiss, desiring to render a space of his own in which the laws of physics and reason have been re-ordered, has melded together his formal and iconic concerns. To this end he has produced paintings of generically delineated landscapes marked by inexplicable events, or populated by eccentric architecture-like geometries. Reminiscent, in their stylization and simplicity, of Kasimir Malevich's late folkish paintings, Weiss's understated, stripped-down images radiate a sense of pensiveness and mystification while emotionally generating a feeling of both fascination and bewilderment.

Occupying a small area of the painting's surface, Weiss's image-events appear as if they are being seen from a great distance. This allows the image-forms to hover between the familiar and the archetypal without becoming a category of ready-mades or having fixed signs. Their enigmatic and intimate quality is also due to the manner in which Weiss intermixes the literalness of figural painting with the virtuality inherent in abstraction.

Given that Weiss is a painter of sensibility and vision, his works illustrate the influence that the subtle texturing of a surface, the choice of a color or the intuitive, tentative drawing of a line can have on the meaning of a painting. With forethought, these modest landscapes are realized with a sense of humor and economy that turn the dissolution of the distinction between the real and the fictitious into metaphors for intimacy and fragility.