Gray Wielebinski: Oil and Water

25 June - 31 July 2021 London

Hales is delighted to announce Oil and Water, a solo exhibition of new work by Gray Wielebinski. In their debut exhibition with the gallery, Wielebinski continues with their explorations of the intersections of mythology, identity, nationhood, and memory. Reconfiguring and transforming iconography and visual codes, their work seeks to navigate and question society’s frameworks and belief systems.


Wielebinski (b. 1991 Dallas, TX, USA) lives and works in both London, UK and Los Angeles, CA, USA. They received a BA from Pomona College, Claremont CA, USA in 2014 before completing an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art, London, UK in 2018. 


In Oil and Water, Wielebinski takes the American cities of Dallas, Texas and Los Angeles, California as a starting point to explore the perpetuating mythologies that are entrenched in both places. Spending their formative years in the two cities, Wielebinski explores their personal relationship to the places that shaped their identity and personhood. The title and concept for the show is drawn from how the cities came to be – through the mining of oil in Texas and the syphoning of water from the valleys in California. Built on reaping the natural resources, Wielebinski states ‘Both cities made me, but they were both made by a type of “original sin” that continues to live on physically, psychically, and aesthetically throughout the cities themselves at almost every level of daily life.’


Characteristic of Wielebinski’s multifaceted practice, Oil and Water exhibits works across a range of mediums, which rethink and expand on the totemic potential of iconographies. In sculptural works they are utilizing specific materials such as cement and wood to reference the materials of the aqueduct and piping, which allowed Los Angeles to steal water from the Owens Valley. Wielebinski is also particularly interested in the iconography and psychic landscape of pump jacks, the oil drilling machines that litter the flat Texas landscape that enact a repetitive almost meditative motion, which belies their true function. 


Wielebinski’s rocking horses mirror the shape and motion of pump jacks – ultimately going nowhere. Their work explores our relationship to animals, particularly our tendency to love them mainly symbolically or through anthropomorphized lenses. Horses are often seen as representative of machismo, cowboys, the possibilities of “going west,” and rugged individualism in American culture. Wielebinski’s rocking horses serve to undermine these tropes by presenting them as childlike, impotent, with a repetitive function. The childhood toy in this context makes a case against feigned ignorance or denial. Complicating traditional narratives, Wielebinski speaks to our obsession with dominating nature, the mundanity and everyday cruelty of American life, and the impulse to repeat the same histories over again.


Manmade interventions of the spur and the horseshoe become reoccurring symbols in the work. The spur most often representing aggression towards nature and a desire to control it, it is both useful and decorative. The horseshoe, while having a use function, has a strong connection and deep history throughout cultures of good luck. A famous parable has St. Dunstan tricking Satan by horseshoeing his hooves and making him promise to protect those with the now powerful symbol hung outside their house. 


Oil and Water highlights the contradictory nature of symbolism. Wielebinski invites us to relook and rethink our relationship to symbols and to question perpetuating mythologies. They encourage a break from inevitability and allow for different realities and truths to exist at once.


Wielebinski’s solo exhibitions include Dark Air, curated by DATEAGLE ART at Seagar Gallery, London (2019); Shaved in Opposite Directions at B. Dewitt Gallery, London, UK (2018); and A Dog Pees On Things For More Than One Reason at Gazelli Art House, London, UK (2018). They have been included in many group exhibitions including, ltd los angeles, LA, USA; Polignano a Mare, Italy; Lychee One Gallery, London, UK; Goswell Road Gallery, Paris, France; Organon, Odense, Denmark; J Hammond Projects, London, UK; Enclave Projects, London, UK; Turf Projects, UK; Good Sport Gallery, London, Ontario, Canada; Toynbee Studios, London, UK; Casa da Dona Laura, Lisbon, Portugal; and Bloomsbury Theatre, London, UK.


Their work has been written about extensively, most notably in Art Maze, It’s Nice That, Dazed, Time Out London, AQNB, Coeval Magazine, Ocula Magazine, Something Curated and Hammer Museum Graphite Magazine. Wielebinski’s work is in the collections of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA, USA and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Library & Archives, CA, USA.



Installation Views