Brunner’s paintings are a rather quirky, original combination of two recent art-history puzzle pieces: dry conceptualism with the sensuous, rich surfaces of abstract color paintings…the paintings are especially beautiful in the Corcoran’s even, natural lighting. Brunner seems almost to be trying to measure beauty, experience and art, or to pin them like butterflies to his beautiful surfaces.
...Prior to arriving in Washington, D.C. the only new and important artists I knew were those identified as the Washington Color School...Living and working in Washington, I discovered that the city was richer in significant contemporary artists than I had imagined...I discovered several powerful imagist artists including Ed McGowin, Ed Love, Fred Folsom, Al Carter, Wilfred Brunner and William Christenberry, who worked as a realist and imagist. Among the abstract artists I came to admire were Anne Truit, Jeannie Lea Knight, Sam Gilliam, Rockne Krebs, James Hilleary, Eric Rudd and Carroll Sockwell...During his lifetime, Sockwell had three important gallery exhibitions in Washington. The first was at a gallery called Hard Art in a two-person show with the imagist Wil Brunner...
-Walter Hopps; Remembering Carroll Sockwell and His Art
Wil Brunner’s often witty paintings refer to events in his personal life and to his travels which have included the study of pictographs created by Canada’s Algonquin Indians. His paintings and notations, often including words and parts of sentences are like a diary which requires the viewer’s effort to decipher. Although he has spent a good deal of time looking at the Rothkos at the Phillips and absorbing the message of their color fields, Brunner’s message is different from any other painter’s in Washington.
-Willem de Looper
Wil Brunner deals strictly on a personal level with his eloquent statements in rather simplified formats. He taps his own experiences and emotions and allows them to be shared by the viewer. If one is not able to fully understand the specific impetus behind the canvases, one is certainly able to relate to the images and free associate from them, be it a lonely window seat or migratory birds. Brunner is capable of evoking flights of thoughts and feelings with merely a minimalized shape and a descriptive title. He paints whatever he has to and the result of this creative process touches and provokes us all.
Wil Brunner's paintings reflect a collage aesthetic. He gathers poignant, solitary images to create a visual conversation. The space between objects is as the space between notes in a musical composition - equal to, if not more important than, the notes themselves. The overall effect is akin to a walk in the woods, where accidental harmonies of color, sound, shape and texture lend the mind a state of philosophical repose.
He is in fact seeing everything in visual terms, things that to most of us wouldn’t look like art at all. In transferring them to canvas he forces a reevaluation of these humble objects and, by implication, of everything else visible.
Washingtonian Wil Brunner is a trickster, in the creative sense of the term. His works are deceptive surfaces containing familiar works and forms from both the human and natural worlds. They appear to be flat, benign, and innocent, even as they trap a viewer within their faceless mysteries….[he] is a sign painter whose subject, ultimately, is concealed in the very simplicity and readability of his images. His paintings are seriously subversive acts against the gentle processes of one of our most important assumptions: that we understand what we see.
The star of this show is Wilfred Robert Brunner, whose work has been seen elsewhere in the area recently. He was included in the Baltimore Museum’s recent show of regional artists from it’s collection and was also in this spring’s Maryland Artists show. While the symbols in them are often cryptic, his paintings are satisfying both as compositions and as sheer painting….The meaning is unclear, but even without meaning the painting itself is arresting, even beautiful. Other works in this show…display the same qualities.
Wil Brunner’s paintings…establish a sort of gentle, funny hum in that curious no man’s land separating the “real” world and the reality of art.
Through simple gestures, the viewer's perspective is transformed. Rather than looking at a canvas on a wall, they might imagine themselves floating in space, their gaze pointed down at the ground. By mining the tension between the representation of real objects and the depiction of abstract forms, Brunner questions and expands upon the communicative possibilities of painting itself.