Wes Lang - Modern & Contemporary Art: Online Auction, New York New York Monday, June 17, 2024 | Phillips
  • While incorporating an array of mediums such as sculpture, painting, drawing and screenprinting, Wes Lang’s works are inextricably linked by a visual language that revolves around a collection of totemic motifs sourced by the artist throughout his life. Skulls, grim reapers, knives and pinup models float freely amidst Lang’s compositions, interrupted sporadically by fragments of text – usually song lyrics or passages from the Tao Te Ching. 


    Standing in the Garden, 2013, serves as a prominent example of the unique aesthetic that has propelled Lang into the midst of the artistic zeitgeist of the past two decades. The left side of the work is dominated by a swath of black paint, in the center of which is a skeleton adorned with traditional Native American imagery – holding a hatchet in its left hand and wearing a feathered war bonnet. The figure, posed in three-quarter profile, is enclosed by four gold lines, capturing the essence of a stripped-down gilt frame, and subsequently exuding the individual grandeur and braggadocio of a historic portrait. Several smaller disembodied skulls, also in feathered war bonnets, occupy the lower right quadrant of the work. Flanked by a topless woman and two skeleton grim reapers holding scythes, these smaller iterations of Lang’s visual lexicon imbue the work with a sense of rhythm and cadence that deftly balances out the monumental intensity of the left side. 


    While his iconography is often considered macabre, Lang believes the grim atmosphere of his work functions as a memento mori, rather than a celebration of death. In a conversation with fellow artist and self-proclaimed “huge Wes Lang fan,” Damien Hirst, Lang notes “There’s nothing morbid about what I’m doing. I intend for my paintings to be joyful reminders of how lucky we are to be alive and to make the most of it while we have the opportunity to do so. The symbols are representations of the freedom we all strive for.”i He attributes this embrace of mortality to his practice of Taoism, referring to his work as his own “interpretation of the Tao. It’s a practice of acceptance of death.”ii


    His juxtaposition of isolated motifs and text phrases conjure frequent comparisons to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Donald Baechler. Unsurprisingly, these are two artists Lang cites as large influences on his art. He unabashedly discusses his appropriation of elements from the oeuvres of artists he admires, stating “I can paint like Basquiat because I know it inside and out. It's like I painted them. Because sometimes I do: I fucking repaint his paintings as a start for a painting. And then I fucking turn it into my own fucking painting.”iii


    Despite the breadth of his sources of inspiration, Lang’s creative process is unmistakably his own, as the idiosyncrasies of his style can be traced back to specific elements of his life. The solid linework, sharp contrast and machismo-laden symbology that have become synonymous with Lang’s art are reminiscent of the aesthetic tenets of the American Traditional tattoo style. Unsurprisingly, prior to his emergence as an artist, he held an apprenticeship at a tattoo shop, where he gravitated towards the style’s strictly delineated visual language. 


    Lang’s place in the art scene of the 2000s as an outsider artist who garnered critical acclaim has been solidified by eccentric collaborations with musicians and fashion brands. He designed merchandise collections for The Grateful Dead and Kanye West, as well as an album cover for heavy metal band, Avenged Sevenfold. In 2007, Lang worked with streetwear titan, Supreme, to create a line of t-shirts featuring the artist’s rendition of Satan. In 2022, he collaborated with designer Mike Amiri’s AMIRI label for its Autumn collection, adorning garments as well as the runway with his patchworked motifs. 


    When West posted an image of a work he purchased from the artist on social media, renowned art critic, Jerry Saltz, responded, “This is weird. I am [New York Magazine’s] art critic. Love Basquiat. LOVE this painting. Looked at ALL my Basquiat catalogs. Painting not there?” When told about Saltz’s post in an interview with GQ, Lang’s response was impossibly on brand: “Hahaha. It’s the new Basquiat, motherfucker.”iv


    Wes Lang, quoted in “Damien Hirst Chats With Friend and Fellow Artist Wes Lang About Life, Death and His New Show in Aspen,” GQ, August 29, 2021, online

    ii Wes Lang, quoted in Tyler Watamanuk, “How Wes Lang and M. Shadows Pushed Each Other to New Creative Zones for Avenged Sevenfold’s New Album,” GQ, May 15, 2023, online

    iii Wes Lang, quoted in Zach Baron, “Meet Wes Lang: Kanye Collaborator, Taste God, and World’s Most Badass Artist,” GQ Style, August 22, 2016, online.

    iv Ibid. 

    • Provenance

      Half Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      New York, Half Gallery, Wes Lang: Blessings, November 7–December 15, 2013


Standing in the Garden

signed, titled, inscribed and dated "Wes Lang STANDING IN THE GARDEN 2013 LA, CA" on the reverse
acrylic, pencil, colored pencil, spray paint and paper collage on paper
37 7/8 x 49 7/8 in. (96.2 x 126.7 cm)
Executed in 2013.

Full Cataloguing

$12,000 - 18,000 

Sold for $21,590

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Modern & Contemporary Art: Online Auction, New York

17 - 26 June 2024