Terry Winters: Haltingly optimistic

In The Village Voice RC Baker writes that there’s something hard-fought and heartening about Terry Winters’s new paintings at Matthew Marks. “Chunks of intense color tumble and collide across garish or sooty or muddy matrices. Like our times, they’re fraught, complex, and scarred over, but also haltingly optimistic….In a 1992 Bomb magazine interview, Winters recalled a ‘famous quote from Leonardo’s notebook about seeing figures in the stains on a wall,’ adding, ‘There seems to be almost a biological need to invest images with those kinds of readings.’ But if we have a driving instinct to discern faces in clouds or the Virgin Mary’s visage in a grilled-cheese sandwich, how can abstraction persevere? That has been Winters’s quest for nearly three decades. While his early observations led to paintings as pungent as the deadfall of leaves, roots, and worms in a dark forest, the later work seems an acknowledgment that the material world of our senses is being transcended�not by the philosophies or religions of yore but by cutting-edge science and computers. Paintings in one of his mid-’90s series were as flat as CAT scans, yet the curved, cratered contours were volatile, even sensuous; colors became hybrids of nature and technology, like radioactive dyes injected into the bloodstream to throw disease into high relief. In the new ‘Knotted Graphs’ paintings, Winters deploys strata of often-transparent pigments that bleed into one another, a crazy quilt that at first looks disparate and random until the ragged grids and cascades of bulbous shapes slowly, even laboriously, coalesce into beautiful bloom, an organic cyberspace.” Read more.

Terry Winters: Knotted Graphs,” Matthew Marks, New York, NY. Through Jan. 24.


  1. But if we have a driving instinct to discern faces in clouds or the Virgin Mary’s visage in a grilled-cheese sandwich, how can abstraction persevere?
    Passion, more a driving passion, is:

    � To revisit the things we know
    � To get lost in them
    � To build an imaginary world within the one we are already driving
    � To place ideas or things higher than we can physically manage

    It�s interesting, but not nearly as interesting as getting over it, seeing from the other side, a wall, a play of light, something erected, something that will, after-all, come down�in due time.

  2. Locked into our DNA is a now unnecessary urge to identify whether the shadowy form in the twilight is a hungry lion or a visitor from a friendly tribe. (I say unnecessary, since today it is always wise to assume the lion.)

    With and abstract painting, once we realize it’s ‘just art’ the potential power of the primal urge is watered down to a game of nostalgia. Abstraction continually struggles with how to keep the viewer in the present, to reconnect with that power, and to somehow deny that what we are presented with in paint is anything more than an artifact.

  3. The new stuff looks great – more like the early stuff. He’s got over that grim linear thing and has found a new subtlety in motifs.

    But the Marks’ site JPEGS mainly showcase the gallery’s expanses of ceiling and floors for some reason. Think guys! – what is it we’re selling here, again?

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