Paul Weiner’s protean output of paintings, drawings, and sculptural works grapples with America’s contemporary identity and history, generating symbols of an American culture in turmoil. Based in Colorado, Weiner grew up a quick drive from the sites of the Columbine Massacre and the Century Aurora shooting, a unique personal history that lends the unsettling aura of a culture consumed with violence to his work. His evocations of 21st Century American nationalism interrogate the anthropological roots of American culture, directly channeling and altering the meaning of American iconography associated with the flag, sports, folk history, legal system, and military industrial complex.
Weiner is keenly focused on formal, painterly innovation. In his most recent flag paintings, Weiner builds on the heritage of American painters who have addressed the flag. By using the flag as a material, he advances the conversation on the flag’s removal from illusionary and flat, pictorial space. Weiner stacks layers of black oil paint over the flag in an effort to create an introspective mindset in the viewer with meaning that shifts like a mirror to the person standing in front of it. This approach would have been illegal in the United States until the Supreme Court case of Texas v. Johnson in 1989, which made it legal to desecrate the flag as a form of free speech. However, Weiner’s work is complicated in its approach to altering the flag, allowing the viewer to decide whether the flag is being defiled or adorned by its painted layer. The accompanying drawings divorce the symbols of the flag (stripes and stars) from their meaning, allowing them to exist on their own. As such, Weiner frees these symbols from their original intent and allows them to speak for themselves in a minimal space where they reclaim their own, perhaps sacred or spiritual, form.
Other recent works include sculptural pieces addressing American sports and folk history, such as baseballs that have been covered in tar and feathers, and videos representing American domestic and military violence alongside violent paintings and prints of legal documents related to American mass shootings. Weiner's paintings often rely on the iconography of violence in formal values that approach a post-minimal quality before being torn, broken, sliced, or otherwise destroyed. Other painterly devices include acts of erasure, especially the blacking out of symbols or words, as is most evident in his series of paintings revolving around the Aurora theater shooting of 2012.
Paul Weiner was born in 1993 in Aurora, Colorado. Over the past two years, Weiner’s works have been included in exhibitions at Durden & Ray, Los Angeles, CA; Mana Contemporary, Chicago, IL; TW FINE ART, Brisbane, Australia; Chabah Yelmani Gallery, Brussels, Belgium; 44309 Gallery, Dortmund, Germany; YIA Art Fair, Brussels, Belgium; ARTBandini Fair, Los Angeles, CA; CTRL+SHFT, Oakland, CA. He has also been a visiting artist in residence with Long Road Projects and Miscellaneous Press. In 2015, Weiner received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from Syracuse University studying under artists such as Andrew Havenhand, Sharon Gold, Kevin Larmon, and Jerome Witkin degree before returning to his home state of Colorado.
The artist is represented by 44309 Street//Art Gallery.
Featured image: Paul Owen Weiner - installation view
All images copyright of the artist