Golden Time of Day

39 Lispenard

September 8 – October 7, 2023

Will Watson

Golden Time of Day

September 8-October 7, 2023 Opening Reception: Friday, September 8th 6 pm - 8:30 pm

Freight+Volume presents Golden Time of Day, Will Watson's New York debut solo show. The exhibition will be on view at the gallery’s 39 Lispenard Street location September 8 through October 7, 2023.

Color cuts into the substance of Will Watson’s works like an emanation. Across the paintings featured in Golden Time of Day, this source is twofold. On the one hand, Watson delights in mingling colorations from across the spectrum. From warm tones to cool, he creates surfaces which feel simultaneously dream-like and iconic. On the other hand, Watson’s eye for color doesn’t eschew the racialized connotations of the term. His paintings depict persons of color—especially families and youth—with a joyful regard that doesn’t preclude the realities of systemic injustice, or the dormant potentials that form the hallmark of many American lives.

The air of intimacy communicated through Watson’s canvases only partially derives from allusions to historical contexts. Often enough, the authentic meaning of his works only unlocks itself in connection with the titles attached to them. In Silence Is the Way of the Sunset, for instance, what initially reveals itself to the viewer is the sheer iconicity of the painting. Four figures rest foregrounded against a backdrop replete with social significance. From the figures gardening, or just going about their day—everything has a socially constructed meaning about it. But the artistry of the work falls outside the province of sociology.

Merry Go-Round (Freestyle) encapsulates this spirit entirely. At once realistic and abstract, detailed and simplistic, the emotions expressed through the painting are motivated by memory as much as imagination. However fanciful the setting might appear, remembered experiences form the essential substrate of the work. There’s a greater context implied by the perspective Watson has chosen to recreate—as though nostalgia could unburden itself of any vestiges of sorrow and render present the joyful essence of what it fixes in the past. The suggestion of there being more than what is given to the eye lends the paintings a kind of tranquil depth: it doesn't shock, but rather guides viewers towards recognitions with which they’re already familiar.

Golden Time of Day showcases how a painting practice is able to realize a universal message rooted in equality. Visually communicating the necessity of creative life to be rooted in identity, the understated way naturalism plays into Watson’s urban tableaux gives way to the real meat underlying his artistry. Less idiosyncratic than universally intelligible, Watson’s paintings reflexively provoke their own commentary, rendering the themes evinced in his work a sort of enchanted suppleness. His work recalls an entire secret history, condensed into the space of corpuscular skies and gilded clouds.