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Michael Wynne

by Pedro Vélez
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Who do you really think moves the art economy in our great nation? Is it the hedge fund managers who play the market in Richard Prince or Jeff Koons? Phooey. I say it is people in the middle, who know and love art and artists because they’re a part of their lives. These are true collectors, and Dallas has one in Michael Wynne.

“I started out very young, collecting records with weird covers, but the first artwork I ever bought was a painting by Howard Finster 15 years ago,” Wynne told me. “I later moved onto artist books and work by young artists from Texas.” A jovial man, Wynne grew up on a farm and taught himself to paint from art books. In the late ‘80s he did stints with Foster Goldstrom Gallery in New York, was included in several important museum shows and sold a lot of art. His paintings from that era combine dripped house paint, detritus, silkscreened cartoons and big neon signs that read “beer professor.”

Recently, he started a Facebook page for his art collection, where he posts photographs of his new acquisitions. During my recent trip to Dallas, I asked him about it, and he said, “I want everyone to see the work I own. I hate it when museums and private collections put restrictions on photography. What’s the use of hiding the work? Artists want their work to be seen, not to sit in a crate.”

During my visit, I saw an impressive selection of photographs by Kelli Connell, a Chicago-based artist who manipulates negatives digitally to create believable compositions of a single female model playing both roles in two-person scenes. I guess her thing is to investigate gender roles and identity politics as they manifest in long-term relationships. Just last week, I saw a few of these works in “The Truth is Not in the Mirror: Photography and a Constructed Identity” at the Haggerty Museum in Milwaukee.

Wynne also owns works by Texas-based artist Robert A. Pruitt (not to be confused with the Warholian dude in New York); by renegade artist Eric Doeringer, who is known for making bootlegs of paintings by Andy Warhol and every other A-list artist; and by New York sculpture and performance artist Jason Villegas.

One of my favorite works in the collection is a large painting by Rachel Hecker that overlays unrelated pop imagery in the style of James Rosenquist or David Salle. The painting shows a seemingly tired Casper the Ghost painted over airbrushed nudes and a digital clock. It reminds me of 1950s signage.

Wynne ventures that Dallas art can be grouped into two schools: installations that are influenced by Arte Povera; and ultra-sleek abstract photography. When I asked him whether his work as a collector could negatively affect his art practice, he replied, “I believe in these artists as much as I believe in my own art.”

By way of full disclosure, I should mention that Wynne and his wife, Betsy Carter, a lawyer, have bought a bunch of my own works in the past. However, it took me six years to finally meet him -- and I’m glad I did.

Wynne’s not done with the art-making business, either. He’s currently collaborating with painter Andy Don Emmons under the pseudonym of Brush Muscle. . . but I can’t tell you anything more about the project just yet.

PEDRO VÉLEZ is an artist and critic living in Chicago.