Wes Lang paintings carry familiar resonances from art history and popular culture while at the same time expressing utterly original, personal symbolism and emotional gestures. His attraction to images of the American West speak to the power of even the most problematic folklore in our culture, at the same time spark the wonder and mystery of limitless imagination. In his hybrid style of clarity and distress and in a punched-up and text-laced palette that signals not only reverence but deconstruction and interrogation, Lang creates affecting images that are equal part celebration and implication. A suite of new works is currently on view in Aspen.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
WES LANG: There is nothing else I’ve ever wanted to do. My earliest memories are of making art and knowing it was my purpose in this world. Never had a choice. Feel very lucky. My family was very supportive in letting me follow my vision for my life.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
Freedom and loving awareness.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
I didn’t. School was never my strong suit. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and set out to make it happen the day I graduated high school.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
Spent most of my adult life in New York but always wanted to live here since I was a kid, it just took awhile for me to get here. To me, Los Angeles is the greatest city in the world with endless opportunities to create and thrive. I have found that there is an amazing community of creative people here…artists, writers, musicians, actors, directors etc. and we all support each other to make our dreams come true.
When was your first show?
2000 at a gallery called Mark Pasek on the lower east side of Manhattan. I owe Mark everything, he was the first person to believe in me. That show changed my life forever and I never looked back.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
I have so many exciting things happening. I have a show called Endless Horizons opening at Almine Rech in Aspen this week. My first book with Rizzoli called Everything launches on September 28. I feel so grateful for all the opportunities coming my way.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
Mike Kelley. No question. My favorite of all time. I loved his willingness to push his abilities to the maximum. He is a major influence on me.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Yes. Music is the driving force in my life. I grew up in my dad’s record store in Jersey. Lots of live Grateful Dead shows, Chopin, Kanye West, Mozart, Johnny Hartman, Sinatra, Danzig…an endless list. Music gives us the ability to dream.
After social media rumblings about California parents having their kids walk out and skip …