Monday, November 1st, 2004

Terry Winters 1981-1986

Matthew Marks Gallery
523 West 24 Street
New York NY 10011

November 6 to December 24, 2004

Terry Winters Free Union 1883 oil on linen, 79 x 104-1/4 inches Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery
Terry Winters, Free Union 1883 oil on linen, 79 x 104-1/4 inches Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

Strangely there are currently a number of shows around town of 80’s art. One of the best is Matthew Marks show of Terry Winters paintings and drawings from 1981 to 1986. These are some of the earliest paintings that Winters showed in New York. The palette is dark and the feeling of the primordial ooze, from which life springs, is all over the place. Winters was, at the time, very involved in botanical and other scientific illustrations as source material.

In the age-old controversy over the supremacy of drawing or color in painting Winters would definitely be in the drawing camp. Even the areas of so-called background a draftsman’s hand is evident. Using the scientific illustration as a springboard Winters improvises, combines, extrapolates and revises forms often to arrive at a hybrid or even new species. Pine cone, limb, stem and cell structures sometimes become insect or even human forms. This is not really the stuff of anthropomorphic grace but rather some weird science drawn and redrawn out of the forming miasma. The levels of layering and redrawing become a kind of bildungsroman of the creation myths.

All of the drawings and paintings in this show were done years before the work Winters showed in a big exhibition at the Whitney museum in 1991. By that time color had become of greater importance in the work and form had become clearer. “Point” in the present show, for instance, is a harbinger of things that followed. The Whitney show received less than enthusiastic critical response in some quarters. Daunted but not undone, Winters work began to give form to binary information systems. The soundtrack started to include European jazz systems. In short the less lyrical work of the past ten years was born.

The point of this background information is to demonstrate that painting is not merely a process in itself but that the artist is also involved, garnering and responding to information and to life. The current show at Marks provides a rare glimpse of some of the beginnings of a beautiful process.