Terry Winters: Table of Contents
On ViewMatthew Marks
May 14 – June 26, 2021
Terry Winters’s current exhibition at Matthew Marks features paintings that derive their compositions from sources that range from the molecular to the cosmic, from the natural world to propositional math equations and the virtual world generated by computers. This diversity is extensive, and much like Giles Deleuze’s theory of the “rhizomatic,” Winters uses a system of horizontal, interconnected exchange rather than a rationalized and hierarchical model of image-building. The incongruent shapes, marks, and references, all now part of a composition, resonate and attach to one another, clustered across the picture plane. The use of materials is also very diverse: the show includes seven paintings in oil, wax, and resin on linen, five paintings in oil on paper and a group of 26 grisaille drawings in graphite, ink, and wax on paper. For Winters, engagement with the medium is vital in conjuring any image—the works included here are always first and foremost paintings and drawings. Despite the richness of their sources, reference and association do not displace formal invention.
Take the paintings made on linen, for example. These are all around seven feet tall by five feet wide and the mixture of pigment, oil, wax, and resin that covers their surface is prepared by the artist himself. There is a vibrancy to Winters’s color that has noticeably grown in his recent paintings, where chromatic radiance is prioritized. The blue and violet atmosphere of Index 1 (2021), accented by a red dot at its center, contains a resonant depth of color that registers powerfully from across the gallery. But its effect is something quite different when viewing from close up, say a yard away. Much of this is owed to the construction of the painting: adjustments, layering, changes, additions are all there in a haptic surface whose nuances are clear to see at a close proximity. This two-fold experience has been key for Winters and to much painting since, at the very least, Titian began to apply paint with both brush and fingers. Winters’s attention to the visual effect of his surfaces places him in a long tradition of innovative painting.
Index 3 (2021), another of the large linen works, features several ellipses amongst which are located three red ovals like atoms, planets, or other mapped elements in motion. Their scale is indeterminate, hovering somewhere between macro and micro. Two dark bars, one above and one below, like the horizontal forms of a Mark Rothko or Agnes Martin, here compress or contain an energy field of small marks. The yellow ground color, red ovals, dark ellipses, and bars are not static, and the painting has a strong kinetic aspect that is shared by the other paintings here. The works on paper are less complex compositionally, but have a similar dynamism. Curtain (2020), for example, presents an all-over, undulating field of marks that brings to mind particle waves, field sensor images, and refracted light.
Typically, the composite nature of Winters’s painted compositions—their use of pattern, torqued and topographic grids, repeated dots, tessellations, and webs—indicate a relation to the smaller grisaille works also on view. The large paintings have their origin in drawing, in other words. The relationship of drawing to painting, as well as the importance of drawing as an independent medium, has long been a core concern for Winters. We saw this in 2018 at the Drawing Center, with the exhibition Terry Winters: Facts and Fictions, a four-decade survey of his drawings. The 26 works included at Matthew Marks, which are collectively titled Table of Contents (2020) and give this exhibition its name, are made on tab dividers manufactured for three-ring binders, and clearly indicate the generative role of graphic works in Winters’s oeuvre. Organic and technological representations are synthesized here, cleaving together in an aggregate that materializes abstract ideas and propositions. Invisible worlds are rendered present here as drawing and painting, color sensations and material inflections.