The early days before Terry Winters’ interests in drawing yielded to color concerns
Strangely, there are currently a number of shows around town of ‘80s art.
One of the best is the 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 evokes a primordial ooze, the womb of all life.
At the time, Winters was very interested 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 within the areas of so-called background, a draftsman’s hand is evident.
Using the scientific illustration as a springboard, Winters improvises, combines and extrapolates, often revising forms after arriving at a hybridized or even new species. Pinecone, 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 1991 Whitney Museum exhibition. By that time, color had become of greater importance in his work and form had become clearer. The oil painting “Point” in the present show is a bit of a harbinger of things that followed.
The Whitney show received less than an enthusiastic response by some critics. Daunted but not undone, Winters’ work began to give form to binary information systems. A soundtrack started to include European jazz systems. In short, the less lyrical work of the past ten years was born.
I raise this background information to demonstrate that painting is not only a process in itself, but that the artist is also involved in a process of garnering and responding to information and living. The current show at Matthew Marks provides a rare glimpse of some of the beginnings of a beautiful process.