Gary Gissler is an American artist working in New York City and in the Catskills. Having exhibited widely, he has been the subject of many solo exhibitions, often with accompanying catalogues. He has been reviewed in Art in America, Flash Art, Art News, The New Yorker, ArtNet, and others. He has a long history of being collected privately, and his work is currently included at the RISD Museum and the Neuberger Museum. He has been awarded a Pollock Krasner Grant and a Chinati Foundation Artist Residency.

Gissler grew up in the Midwest with a family that celebrated writing and language, and valued the discursive creation of meaning and interpretation. He was trained as a jeweler, which contributed to his obsessive and meticulous techniques of making art. Graduating with a BFA in 1980, he moved away from metalwork and began making paintings. In some significant ways he is a self-taught artist, and from the beginning his work has consistently explored and reflected the nature of language. In 1986, after living and exhibiting in Chicago for a number of years, Gissler moved to New York City, where he has continued to work and exhibit.

Deeply informed by pace and process, Gissler’s work quietly invokes chanting, like the murmuring of a mantra, like incantations, like the breath…Despite simple rules of execution, cutting apart texts, transcribing and altering, blurring, and weaving, and while fully acknowledging the authority of minimalism, Gissler pursues the essentiality of language and its capacity for creating meaning.

The process itself reiterates his understanding of language as fragile. In the most recent works, and in the manner of classic collage techniques, thousands of bits of linen are carefully cut and gently glued to panels. Fragments of language are faintly and barely embedded into the linen. Occurring like a whisper, the literal words are reduced to a domain teetering on meaninglessness. These intimate and complex works are a meditative and deeply considered analysis of the basis for how one finds meaning in the world, finding that moment where understanding is felt, not known. Where knowing intuitively arrives, distinct from language.

Employing such classic texts such as “The Interpretation of Dreams”, “Moby Dick”, “Through the Looking Glass”, “Finnegan’s Wake”, and Brothers Grimm’s Fairy Tales, these narratives are harvested for their content and are exploited for their mythic status. With an understanding of minimalism, this content is methodically reduced to the edge of its meaninglessness, wherein nothing is in fact, it’s everything.

In addition to his ongoing studio practice, Gissler is a psychoanalyst in private practice. He finds his work as an analyst and as an artist, nearly inseparable. “The extensive, ongoing dialogue with patients over the nuances of meaning, how we perceive our world, the nature of interpretation… it’s fundamentally the same dialogue that occurs in the studio, he says, …thought, feeling, story, instinct, fear, desire, shame… all are embodied as language. This narrative is endless, insistent and we’re at its mercy. Taking apart these narratives, deconstructing them, as I do in the studio, creates the possibility of something new, perhaps a more crystalline clarity, something like the illusion of knowing saved by wonder.”

The pace, the chaos, the scrambling to make sense of this life, Gissler’s work quietly explores these archetypal challenges, engaging us to slow down, consider the essence of being, and to look with a calm consideration to see what’s almost not there.


Watch a short film on Gary Gissler's work.