Private = Public

February 7 - March 18, 2011

John Wehrle

John Wehrle is a California based artist best known for his site-specific public artworks. Projects include interior and exterior wall paintings as well as more elaborate installations that combine text, painting, ceramic tile or relief sculpture. Wehrle’s projects are found at libraries, banks, buildings, and freeway walls; many have become local landmarks. His work combines elements of allegory, myth and history into monumental, sometimes whimsical, narratives that engage the viewer’s peripheral vision.

Mak Roote Mural, Berkeley Transit Plaza, located under University Avenue between Fourth Street and the train track, Berkeley, CA

Born in San Antonio and raised all over Texas, Wehrle graduated from Texas Tech in Lubbock with a degree in fine art, after which he was commissioned a lieutenant in the signal corps. He was the leader of the first group of army artists sent in 1965 to paint the Vietnam War for the military history division. His paintings and drawings from Vietnam are part of the War Art collection in the Pentagon. Following that surreal experience he attended graduate school at Pratt lnstitute in Brooklyn.

Miller Knox, 8:30 A.M. Richmond Plunge. Mural 33 x 100' completed August 13, 2010

Wehrle moved to San Francisco in 1969, teaching at California College of Arts and Crafts, and making art. Searching for ways to enlarge his artistic experience, he moved to Montana, built a log cabin, and began exploring painting again. Upon returning to the Bay Area he was hired under the CETA program and painted his first outdoor mural, EB 1942, at the De Young Museum in 1975. Many more were to follow, and in his over thirty-year career he has produced commissions for corporate and civic clients, as well as individuals, often working in collaboration with architects, designers and communities to create highly visible works of art.

Rabbit Ears, Mixed Media Sculpture

I have been an artist since I moved to Waco Texas in the fourth grade and I started drawing airplanes with Jim Sturdivant. I was a lousy baseball player, but I could draw a pretty good P-38 Lightning. Then I got to be the guy who drew the pictures of Lewis and Clark on the blackboard for the group report on the Louisiana Purchase. Following the path of art has taken me some interesting places - from the plains of West Texas to the jungles of Vietnam, the streets of New York and the freeways of Los Angeles. Somewhere along the line I became interested in painting on the sides of buildings and much of my work has been created outdoors, in view of pedestrians, motorists and stray dogs.

I have always been an eclectic artist, roaming through different techniques and media. A loosely narrative style and recognizable imagery are the threads that bind my seemingly disparate investigations into painting, sculpture, photography and installation (I think). My choice of subject is unconscious, absorbed from observation and experience.

The difference between my public and private work is that location, audience and budget influence the first; whereas the private images are formed by combining personal memories with the daily flotsam and jetsam of visual information floating through our collective consciousness from Channel 7 and beyond. These pictures collide in my brain, forming mental collages that I try to make concrete. These daydreamed creations are probably not as valuable to mankind as the Benzene ring, DNA Helix or theory of relativity, but the process is similar– a flash of inspiration, followed by a much perspiration.

Much of the work I have chosen to show here has been influenced by a combination of War and Media. There’s a dark and a troubled side of life, There’s a bright and a sunny side too…

As Time Goes By...   Aylen Junior High School , Puyallup, WA