Jerry Vile to reveal the 'secret of life'

Detroit’s favorite prankster sets his crosshairs on the art world in upcoming solo show.

Apr 22, 2014 at 9:24 pm

We’ve got to hand it to artist Jerry Vile for writing possibly the greatest press release we’ve ever received in our inbox, promoting his upcoming show at the Inner State Gallery. “For Immediate Release (that should get your attention),” it begins, and then goes on to lampoon art receptions and press releases in general with gems like “Swanky Art Reception To Feature Shrimp Cocktail,” “selling my artwork for an obscene amount of money is very appealing to me,” and “tapping into greed and insecurity is always a sound investment and if that requires shrimp, I am willing to ‘shell’ out. Get it?”

Similarly to the meta press release of sorts, Vile’s art show hints at being an art show about art shows. Cheekily titled The Secret of Life … Revealed, Again, For the First Time, Ever, the exhibit will feature paintings and sculpture. But it's more of a performance than an art show — the fun is in everything around the art. “I make fun of me, my buyers and art in general,” Vile says. “Every piece has a write-up. So bring your reading glasses. The write-ups go off on tangents that I don’t bother to edit. It started when I had to put titles and prices on cards, and I can’t leave well enough alone. And now it is something I just do, usually at the last minute.” A waivable $5 viewing fee, according to Vile, will be charged, but blindfolds will be available for the frugal.

Despite winning Metro Times’ Best of Detroit Award for Best Painter, Vile fancies himself more of a multimedia artist (he was also decorated for Best Public Art for his pranks around the city, placing an oversized can of Crisco in front of the Joe Louis fist as well as hanging “for sale” tags on public art around town), and he credits his approach to his background working as an art director at his defunct Orbit magazine. “You do what’s best for the job,” Vile says. “I think about what I want to do and whatever vehicle it takes to get there is what I use. Sometimes you have to do a life-sized sculpture to say something. Sometimes you can do it with a tiny painting.”

The show will feature plenty of paintings, but there will be sculpture as well. “The last time I did a show it was The Secret of Life … Revealed. Nobody knew what I meant, except for me, when I said the secret of life,” Vile says — but assures us that his artistic discovery will be explained this time with a small sculpture. “It’s a tiny piece, but a life-sized sculpture. It’s so small you need a microscope to see it,” he deadpans. “There’s an exclusive for you! You’re the first I’ve told. I wish I had told the gallery.”

Beyond this art show, Vile also mentions a long-in-the works Orbit anthology, a byproduct of which will finally see Orbit digitized. “I’m looking forward to it. I can finally get rid of all the Orbit junk and sell it,” he says. But for now, his focus is on the opening. 

“Especially at 8:23,” he says. “That’s the second unveiling. You know when an artist unveils something, like with the sheets and stuff? Have you ever seen it in real life? It’s an excuse to say, ‘Behold!’ It’s pretty pretentious, but how often do you get to hear someone say ‘behold?’” 

The Secret of Life … Revealed, Again. For the First Time, Ever opens at 7 p.m. on April 26, at Inner State Gallery, 1410 Gratiot Ave., Detroit. See for more details. The show runs through May 3.