The purpose of art is different for every artist. Some seek to entertain or amuse, while others strive to achieve technical perfection. However, art that makes a statement about the human condition, or tries to capture the faults and feelings of a generation often stands above the rest, and remains significant and admired throughout art history. British artist Dominic Wilcox has done just that, and in his large body of work, his sculptures using vintage mechanical watches are perhaps the most intriguing. He creates symbolic scenes on the faces of timepieces, and uses the cyclical functions of the hands in order to animate his intimate stories.
CapturedIn "Captured", Wilcox comments on the recent craze of shooting videos and filming every day life. This obsession has consumed the authorities (the CCTV tower in the center), as well as the general public (YouTube videos, smart phones, and reality television). Everyone is capturing everyone else on film in an endless cycle, but to what end? And what are we missing while we live behind a camera?
in the scultpure below, a monkey is balanced on the head of a young weightlifter who is standing on the outstretched arm of an elderly rollerskater. A man standing nearby is so engrossed in his iPhone that he does not even notice the unbelievable feat that passes right in front of him as the watch hands slowly turn. As exaggerated as this example is, Wilcox's sculpture captures the growing feelings of disconnection and self-obsession in our desensitized modern times.
London Looter shows a policeman in riot gear apathetically watching as a hooded youth loots a television and makes away with it. The placement of the two figures on the minute and second hand, respectively, brings them close enough for the policeman to do something, but he never does. The London riots in 2011 were a confusing and frightening time, and those violent events spurred on widespread criticism of police strategy and responsibility in the city. Wilcox, a British citizen, uses this scultpure to epitomize that ongoing discussion about the boundaries of authority.
UC Davis Protest
Perhaps the most powerful sculpture is one which shows the events of November 18, 2011 at the UC Davis campus in California. Peaceful student protesters had assembled in opposition to tuition hikes at the school. The group refused to disperse and was then pepper sprayed at point-blank range by a police lieutenant. Wilcox's UC Davis Protest freezes that moment of extreme policing in time, showing the officer slowly rotating and mercilessly spraying the circle of students on the outer edge of the watch face.
Some of Wilcox's other sculptures represent the societal fixation on fame and wealth, or the poor treatment of the elderly, but not all his works are negative. Some, like Love in Protest and Pigs Shall Fly, show scenes of hope, love, or idealism that still exist, if we are willing to look for it.
Love and Protest
Pigs Shall Fly
The simplicity of these sculptures make the intention behind them almost unmissable, and the second element of movement on the face of a watch adds extra symbolism and a dynamism to the art, as though it were a tiny, live performance. I think that art does imitate life, but it must also be the critic of life, and the art of Dominic Wilcox achieves both those goals. His work is an observation of the changing times we live in, while also suggesting that, in some areas, it's time for change.
To see more fascinating work by Dominic Wilcox, visit his website.
HAVE MORE TIME? Read about my other featured artists at Art Outside The Lines.
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