Retrofit Painting Presents...
Art installation by Thomas Willis
January 25–February 26
Jewett Art Center Art Sculpture Court
Examining the relationships and disparities between the history of painting, trademark, and entertainment, Thomas Willis’ installation, Retrofit Painting Presents…, brings a representation of the hedonic Las Vegas Strip to the academic Jewett Art Center with his conceptual art brand, Retrofit Painting. Willis’ Retrofit Painting, part parody, part praise, is a designer label and online store created to market and sell paintings crafted as objects for everyday use. The label’s “luxury products” range from ready-to-wear painting shoes, bags, sunglasses, hats and other custom accessories.
During the summer of 2015 The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas invited Willis to be their summer artist-in-residence. He transformed the appearance of their art studio (positioned among shops and restaurants) into a “high-end retail boutique.” In this installation Willis displayed the brand's paintings-as-objects to the casino visitors as a retail outlet, while alluding to the problems and perceptions of flatness on the Las Vegas Strip. For the Jewett Sculpture Court Gallery Willis will surround the “products” and “promotional materials” of Retrofit Painting with the cultural elements of a Las Vegas nightclub to create a theatrical setting for viewing the art. Within the context of Las Vegas and beyond, Retrofit Painting appropriates high production media, commercial advertising, minimal design, and capitalist business practices to expound on and bring into question the potency and consumption of surface in the marketplace.
Thomas Willis (1985) is the Technology Support Specialist for the Department of Art at Wellesley College, managing the photo, video, and new media labs and equipment for the Jewett Art Center. Willis is a Boston-based artist originally from Las Vegas, NV. He received his BFA in painting and drawing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2009. His art has shown in numerous exhibitions across the United States, with works in institutions such as the Luo Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Bentley University, and the deCordova Museum. Willis currently has a studio at the Dorchester Art Project in the neighborhood of Field’s Corner, Boston.