Martin Wilner. The Case Histories

23 Nov 2016 – 19 Feb 2017

Freud Museum

London, United Kingdom


Travel Information

  • Finchley Road
  • Nearest tube: Finchley Road, 5 min walk from Museum
  • Finchley Road & Frognal , 5 min walk from Museum

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The Freud Museum presents Wilner’s first solo museum exhibition, drawing on his decades of artistic work pertinent to the practice and thinking around psychoanalysis.


Martin Wilner is an artist, psychiatrist and scholar in psychoanalysis based in New York. The Freud Museum presents Wilner’s first solo museum exhibition, drawing on his decades of artistic work pertinent to the practice and thinking around psychoanalysis.

The Case Histories are the latest iteration of Wilner’s ongoing Making History project begun in 2002. Wilner, in the first decade of this process, rendered daily drawings based upon events in the world of interest to him. Over the course of each month elements of representation, portraiture, caricature, cartography, typography, micrography, and musical composition coalesce into the resulting work.

Beginning in 2012 he began to bring the basic elements of psychoanalysis into the work process by inviting subjects to sit in his place and send him daily correspondence for month-long periods. As Wilner is also a psychiatrist and scholar in psychoanalysis, he is uniquely suited to this unusual task. Together with pen and paper, a psychoanalytic examination of the relationship that develops in the course of each intensive month-long correspondence, directs and helps produce the resulting work.

The Case Histories, includes the first year of this project, representing a refinement of Wilner’s two decades-long observational and parameter-driven work practice. Subjects in these works include the composer John Zorn, filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, and his own former psychoanalyst, among many other fascinating individuals. Also presented are relevant examples of works from his other ongoing projects, Journal of Evidence Weekly and Game Pieces, giving context to the organic evolution of his psychoanalytic drawing practice.

In Journal of Evidence Weekly, Wilner works within the observational constraints of the New York City subway system to create an ongoing series of volumes of drawings, primarily in an accordion fold format to record and examine the ever-unfolding narrative of his daily journeys.

In Game Pieces, he deploys the structures and parameters of games and rule-bound compositional structures to create works that mine the interstices of chance and choice, conscious and unconscious. In Phrenology, the compositional structure of a pseudoscience that purported to map the characteristics of mind becomes a game of self-analysis in the artist’s hands. Despite its being debunked, the notion that the mind could be functionally mapped anticipated Freud’s own topographical model of the mind and brain mapping using fMRI and other current technologies in neuroscience today. As such, presenting Phrenology in Freud’s study creates an interesting conversation between seemingly archaic ideas of the past filtering through Freud’s own contemplations on these matters into the present.

Psychoanalysis is to be seen, therefore, as a constantly evolving system of propositions and hypotheses that are capable of 'application' and study in both clinical and extra-clinical settings.
Esman AH., International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 1998 Aug;79 ( Pt 4):741-56.

A fully illustrated publication will accompany the exhibition including an introduction by Freud Museum director, Carol Seigel, a conversation between the artist and Brett Littman, Executive Director of the Drawing Center (New York City), and an essay by leading psychoanalyst Robert Michels, MD.

Martin Wilner (born 1959, New York City) has exhibited his work internationally and has been published extensively. In addition, he is a clinical psychiatrist, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and a Scholar in Psychoanalysis affiliated with the New York Psychoanalytic Institute.

His work has been included in “Embracing Modernism” at the Morgan Library and Museum (New York City, 2015), “Day After Day” at the University Art Museum, University (Albany, New York, 2013), “Reinventing Ritual” at the Jewish Museum (New York City, 2009), and “Drawn to Detail” at the DeCordova Museum (Lincoln, Massachusetts, 2008).

His work is in many important private and public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York City), Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles), the Morgan Library and Museum (New York City), the Jewish Museum (New York City), Museu de Arte Contemporânea da Fundação de Serralves (Porto), and the Vassar Art Library (Poughkeepsie).

He has been invited to speak about his work process at the Drawing Center (New York City), the Payne Whitney Clinic, Department of Psychiatry Grand Rounds (New York City), Shoreditch Club (London), and South By Southwest (Austin, Texas).

He is currently an Artist in Residence at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute and works from The Case Histories are currently on view at the New Museum Los Gatos (California) as part of the exhibition Making Contact: SETI Artists in Residence.

The exhibition is curated by Steven Holmes, the curator of the Cartin Collection, Hartford, Connecticut. From 2009 to 2012, he was adjunct curator at the Bass Museum of Art, Miami, where he curated “The Endless Renaissance” and “Human Rites,” and he was director of visual arts at Real Art Ways in Hartford from 2000 to 2005. He curated “1001 Chairs for Ai Wei Wei” for Creative Time, as well as projects for Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Sperone Westwater, New York; and the Museo del Arte de Puerto Rico, San Juan. Holmes is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School.


Exhibiting artists

Martin Wilner


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