“The Runner is a forgotten tarot card, political riot, outsider angel, animal hybrid, telekinetic, blessed by an infinite alien intelligence. The Runner rides the hard metal body of a car to and through desire. Long desert roads like the surface of Mars; forests darker than hell. The Runner is always a seeker; they are about seeking.” The exhibition text is equal parts confusing and illuminating.
Taking a cue from late 1960s and early 1970s films, Lauren Wy’s new animated film and project series, on view at Western Exhibitions, transport the viewer to a strange land between the physical and the digital; the real and the surreal. In this liminal place, everyone’s a runner: tigers are galloping in the wild, vintage cars are racing through pale-colored dreamscapes and people are sprinting at full speed. The spotlight is on the protagonist—a formidable female character embodying various bizarre forms: she is portrayed as “an archetype, a titan, a goddess, a replicant, and a Chimera,” as the artist puts it, undergoing ceaseless transformations from human to animal to machine.
Large-scale, poster-like paintings (created with Flashe vinyl paint on polypropylene resin paper and finished in uva/uvb-proof acrylic varnish) and smaller, intimate drawings (featuring oil wax crayon and pigment on Arches oil paper, then sealed with acrylic varnish), all heavily influenced by American New Wave cinema and science fiction, complete the ensemble. Wy’s bold crayon strokes bring to life humanoid figures, animal shapes and everyday objects that subtly reveal themselves amidst a vivid color fog, where shades of purple, fuchsia, blue and fiery red dramatically intersect. Blurring the line between emergence and concealment, it’s hard to tell if the forms are materializing from or being obscured by the vibrant mist of colors. Fantasy escapism becomes all too real.
But “The Runner” is by nature symbolic. Exploring narratives and themes in a non-linear and abstract manner one cannot help but wonder: Are the characters running toward or away from something? Are they seeking refuge in a dream or an alternate universe—an escape from the mundane or problematic aspects of reality? Or is running simply their way to quench their thirst for freedom, exploration and adventure?
It’s worth noting the nod to “Le Weekend” by Jean-Luc Godard, a significant influence on the film: “The Runner” weaves in elements of social commentary, existential reflections, or probes into personal and societal values, mirroring Godard’s renowned innovative narrative techniques and philosophical and socio-political motifs. Similarly, Wy prompts viewers to delve into themes of identity, transformation and unceasing exploration within and beyond the tangible boundaries of the physical realm. Her saturated works provide an ideal point of departure for that sort of esoteric journey. Through ambiguity and open-endedness the artist weaves a rich tapestry of interpretation and meaning throughout the work.
This is to say that to truly experience ”The Runner” is to be fully immersed—to momentarily step away from your reality and into a whimsically imaginative world crafted by Wy. Perhaps it’ll even be cathartic.
“Lauren Wy: The Runner” is on view at Western Exhibitions, 1709 West Chicago through October 28.