Through his work, Joe Waks seeks to expound on the central tenet of playwright Martin Esslin, whose writings focused on the meaninglessness and incongruity of life. His paintings “recontextualize” the icons and emblems commonamongst disparate human civilizations by utilizing paint, text, advertising imagery and events plucked straight from the newspaper. Consumption and the ubiquity of consumer culture are at the heart of these works, but there is a pervasive ambivalence that lies within. Waks seeks seek to temper reality -America’s faded grandeur and current status as a junkie desperately seeking afix of cheap Chinese-made sneakers and flat screen televisions - with a heapin’ helpin’ of humor, a super-sized serving of irony and a couple of squirts of hope.
Like the themes of his paintings, the manner in which Waks produced them presents a paradox. The works are borne of the mundane detritus of workaday existence and look like they were printed using a mechanized process. Nevertheless, upon closer inspection, each work consists of thousands of tiny, painstakingly applied brushstrokes that reveal undulating nooks and crannies made not of fine oil color but of viscous black ooze; the kind of material shipped by barge to be dumped in a far away land, not used to make art.