A year ago, nobody could have predicted that Corey Wash would shut down Gypsy Sport‘s New York Fashion Week presentation while cruising down the runway in her second trimester of pregnancy — not even the model, activist, and artist herself. Following that debut, the 25-year-old started working on pieces for her fourth solo exhibition, “Conversation Derelict.” Wash completed everything within a month and the results are on display at the ABXY gallery on New York’s Lower East Side.
All of Wash’s work tells a cohesive story. This time around, she wanted to draw attention to the lost art of language and communication in the digital age, despite our unlimited access to the wider world. Wash had been noticing what she described as a “lineup of poor communication” on social media, so she decided to do some research. And after watching documentaries and revisiting material such as Edward T. Hall’s 1959 book The Silent Language, the idea for the show was catapulted from her mind to the canvas.
“My curiosity was through the roof,” she says. “I was like, ‘This is something that I’ve always wanted to dive into in general, but now I have a reason to do it. I have a platform, I have a show coming up, and this is what I want it to be about.'”
Throughout the exhibit, Wash’s genderless character Willoughby explores different topics, from how social media affects us and what we place importance on, to how we digest the news and distinguish between misleading headlines and credible sources — all via a colorful assortment of media. Wash’s partner MeLo-X even contributed an original music jingle that plays on a loop with a short animation in the exhibition’s “Research Room,” which is covered in newspaper clippings.
We spoke to Wash about her personal and professional growth, and what she was hoping to achieve with “Conversation Derelict.”
With all of your experience putting shows together, how was it going into this one? Did you feel prepared? Did you feel like you’d already mastered the ropes?
You know what? I would say that this is my most prepared show. We had set the date and time, then I found out I was pregnant and I was like, “Oh shit, got to make some money.”
I knew that I couldn’t go about it the way I usually go about it, which is having these big crazy ideas and executing them but then stressing about everything the last two or three weeks. I knew I couldn’t put that stress on the baby. So I think, this one, I was really super-prepared, like, “Okay, this is when I’m going to be in New York. This is when I’m going to get my canvases. This is how many pieces I need to be working on a day…”
I wouldn’t say I followed everything to the T, but I whipped all of these pieces out within a month. That’s probably the fastest that I’ve created a completely new body of work and at this scale.
This work is centered around social media. What’s your personal and professional relationship like with technology and social media?
I would say my personal relationship was a really quick decline. I just didn’t want to admit it to myself that I was so heavily reliant on just being online all the time, literally not doing shit, just aimless and endless scrolling. Then, I was following a lot of pages that inspired me, and I was like, “Okay, they have this platform, this is how they’re doing stuff. They’re posting, they’re sharing themselves.”
Not to say that I followed a formula, but my aimless scrolling then turned into me using it to my advantage. Being like, “Okay, this is my marketing right now. So this is how I’m going to use this professionally.”
I remember when I started using Twitter and Instagram, it was more, “Okay, I have these thoughts, this is what I like, and this is what I want to share with the world,” and having access to people with larger platforms who were doing what you wanted to do.
And having access to these brands. One of my first big photo shoots, the casting director DMed me and was like, “I love your look.” I’ve gotten so many things just through my DMs and Instagram. Seeing that, I was like, “Oh, now I can really turn this into a full-time thing and use it to do what I love to do and make some money from it.”
So I was definitely like, “Okay, what else can I make money from?” Not even just from my visual art, but from modeling, directing, or doing creative consulting. I’ve done so many different types of jobs from how or what I post. I’m like, “Okay, I can use this to my advantage.”
Can you tell me about the “Research Room” section of the show?
I was watching this documentary called Three Identical Strangers, and afterwards I was thinking about censorship and how the truth is always hidden from us. Why do we censor things? For profit, research, fear, control.
Elsewhere, I took from interactions that I’ve seen between people that I thought were really, really toxic, alongside messages that I wanted people to read and be like, “Okay, this is something that I’m going to take with me as I leave.” The piece was a little experimental. It’s just a repetitive cryptic message that you’re supposed to figure out.
How has the Willoughby character evolved throughout your work?
I would just say continuing the work of just reflecting upon the times that we’re in. Communication has been a consistent theme throughout my work over the past four years since I started doing these comics, so it was time for communication to have its own show.
Last year’s work was about deforestation and how we treat our environment. Now it’s like if we can’t come together and communicate about things, then we actually can’t fix anything, so let’s dive deeper into the narrative. I guess that’s what Willoughby’s doing, diving deeper and continuing the work of spreading these messages and warning the world about our big, bad behavior.
I really like how, even though this is all about communication, it’s not necessarily so much about the dialogue. That’s a really strong thing you were able to convey.
Yeah, a lot of my work has been very dialogue-heavy, and I didn’t want to solely leave it up to that. Because I just wanted to challenge the audience to pay closer attention to their surroundings. I love to leave a lot of things up for interpretation. Everything does have a specific meaning, but some people may interpret something differently.
Tell me about modeling for Gypsy Sport. How did that happen?
I was so hyped. Rio [Uribe, Gypsy Sport creative director] posted that they’re looking for models and I was like, “You know what? I’m going to cast for this. I want to be that pregnant bitch walking down the runway.” So I went to the casting. I’m forever grateful to Rio and Anthony [Conti, Gypsy Sport casting director] for coming through and letting me walk for that show. It was awesome.
“Conversation Derelict” is on view until May 15 at New York’s ABXY gallery.
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