[Francis Naumann]

Sam Wilkinson, “Phase One,” will open at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art on March 13, 2015.  The show features small sculptures and intricate drawings of robots and mechanical beings---inhabitants of what Wilkinson describes as “my mechanically based mind.”  Since childhood (Wilkinson is twenty-one), he has been obsessed by certain repetitive forms and patterns that find their way into his drawings and sculptures.  His characters have an imaginative life as well as an aesthetic one.  Often they begin, like a figure in a novel, as an intimation of a gesture or a pose or a behavior. 

     Wilkinson builds his sculptures of robots from Legos.  The sculptures have an uncanny liveliness and a human quality of attentiveness, the result of Wilkinson’s deep comfort with these creatures, whom he regards as more rational and predictable than human beings.  Robots have customarily suggested alienation and a disengaged and automatic quality to life, but for Wilkinson they are logical beings, deeply sympathetic, and sentient in the way that some people regard animals as uncannily astute.  In Wilkinson’s drawings and sculptures robots have an attentiveness, a dignity, and a sense of mischief and presence.  They are not at all remote or ‘other.’  Many of the figures are inhabitants of a metropolis Wilkinson calls Infinity City, where they live among themselves and without humans.   
   
    His portraits amount to a kind of natural history of robot life.  There are warriors and task-oriented workers and types at ease in their spare surroundings.  Machines cavort with each other.  In the way that Saul Steinberg found human equivalents for birds and alligators and dogs and cats, Wilkinson conveys an inner life to beings usually thought to be without one.  They have an eerie presence, as if they might move once you took your eye from them. 

     Wilkinson’s figures are visually arresting and complicated in their being.  They have an uncanny force of their own that is mysterious and charismatic.