Gilt-y pleasures: Wilder celebrates celestial kitsch

Untitled image by Hilary Wilder.
Painting by Hilary Wilder.

However much is going on in Hilary Wilder's painted installation, "High Lonesome," currently exploding across the Dov© Gallery's walls at Second Street Gallery, it's merely a glimmer of the thought underlying (or perhaps floating over) the project. Wilder expresses a "both-and" point of view, headily traversing both historical tradition and pop culture, both fine art and lo-brow kitsch, both transcendental awe and domestic comfort.

What interests Wilder is how seemingly contradictory ideas not only can occupy the same space-both on the wall and in the heart of the viewer-but also tap the same vein. In her First Friday talk, Wilder pointed out how educated art aficionados know to appreciate the sublime skies of the Hudson River School painters but may feel guilty over enjoying a thrift-store landscape. Rococo in a palace = tasteful. Rococo in a ranch house = tacky.

An example of the artist's sense of play is the title of the installation's central painting, "All Will Be Forgiven," which Wilder took not from a hymn but from a 1978 pop song by Ambrosia. Meant to make viewers uncomfortable by its huge scale in the gallery's confined space (every detail is purposeful with Wilder), the painting roils with pinks, oranges, magentas, and golds in what appears to be celestial sky. The colors are simultaneously beautiful and gaudy. Is it an Italian fresco? Or is it an airbrushed mural on the side of a van? The effect is both Awesome, capital, angelic A, and awesome, lowercase, surfer-dude a.

Wilder mashes things up further by contrasting refined and raw areas, glomming on textured gold and copper here and letting the paint appear to dribble off the canvas and down the wall there. Occasionally, she slips in a representational landscape like a secret-a small seascape on the bottom and a stylized sunset at the top.

Giving the impression that such a rushing gush of a painting is too big to be contained, Wilder carries the colors out onto the rectangular battleship gray background she's painted on the wall and stenciled with a geometric op-art pattern in silver and gold. Unlike the oversized painting, this sense of wallpaper is intended to make the small space seem homey. Three smaller works offer a call-and-response to the central painting and "wallpaper," echoing elements but also offering something new- like Wilder's transcendental interpretation of a homespun wood-inlaid dresser in "The High Lonesome."

Viscerally thrilling and intellectually rich, Wilder's installation is both garish and glorious.

Hilary Wilder's installation, "High Lonesome" is on view through December 31 in the Dov© Gallery at Second Street Gallery. 115 Second St. SE in the City Center for Contemporary Arts. 977-7284.