Wyatt Mills (BFA 2013 Fine Arts) mixes references with abandon in his mixed-media, riotously colorful works. Look closely and you can see Francis Bacon’s abstract, claustrophobic spaces and bared teeth; Pop art moments recalling Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist and Andy Warhol; and sketchy, cartoony bits reminiscent of ’80s artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat. Asked if he seeks out specific people or topics in the media for his collage elements, Mills says, “I try to stay open to the massive overstimulation of our culture. I like to combine pieces from new gossip magazines with propaganda from 50 years ago. I’m interested in how we get information, who’s giving it out, and how it’s presented.”
Born in Mount Kisco, New York, Mills grew up in Los Angeles and moved to New York City to attend the SVA. It was the only college he’d applied to; he knew he wanted to be in New York and toured all the art and design schools there, eventually choosing SVA because, he says, “It lets you do your thing and gives you the most freedom. I just wanted to get right into painting.”
He now lives back in LA, where an artist can get a bigger studio for less rent and establish a base of collectors whose spacious houses provide ample room for large-scale pieces. In addition to his gallery work, Mills also accepts occasional commissions, like the outdoor mural he created for Snapchat company headquarters in nearby Venice. “LA is very open to street art,” he says, “and this was a great opportunity for me to work on a different kind of surface and scale.” His current solo show, “Normal” is on view at Project Gallery in Los Angeles through March 6, 2016.
Among Mills’ recent works is a series of 12 paintings on canvas, which he describes as surreal, abstract narratives depicting life’s mundane moments juxtaposed with intense feelings. “The paintings are like Rorschach tests, or that moment of trying to retrieve a memory and recall something but you just can’t,” he says. “I’m trying to explore our differing perceptions of reality.”
For more information, visit wyattmills.com.
A version of this article appeared first in Creative Outlook.