Joan Witek “Paintings From the 1980s”

Minus Space

poster for Joan Witek “Paintings From the 1980s”
[Image: Joan Witek "Las Meninas (P(S)-9)" (1980) Oil stick and graphite on canvas 68 x 92 in.]

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MINUS SPACE presents the exhibition Joan Witek: Paintings from the 1980s. The exhibition will highlight eight major paintings dating from 1980-1985, all of which have not been publicly exhibited since their debut in Witek’s solo survey at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA, in the 1980s. This exhibition is organized in collaboration with Artist Estate Studio, LLC, Brooklyn.

At a time when the validity of the Modernist canon is being questioned and reassessed, the paintings and drawings of Joan Witek are ripe for rediscovery. For decades Witek has produced a diverse array of paintings and works on paper motivated solely by the color black. “Black is, quite simply, the color of language,” Witek explained recently.

Alongside dominant figures such as Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, and her neighbor Richard Serra, Witek has been a key protagonist in the downtown New York art scene since the 1970s. She has produced highly-inventive works using her own reductive language that deliberately avoid the formal and chromatic concerns associated with much of postwar American art.

In the large-scale paintings presented in her exhibition, Witek sought a kind of purity, filling her surfaces with measured, vertical and horizontal marks laid down side by side in rows with the raw, unprimed canvas visible between those strokes. Witek’s work captivates in its variety-the play between surface, edge, luminosity, and texture.

“I wished to reconcile abstraction and feeling,” Witek once told Jonathan Caldwell, curator of her 1984 solo survey at the Carnegie Museum of Art in which many of the works on view in this exhibition were first presented. She continued, “The irony of the work…is in appearing to be simple and easily grasped visually while an ongoing language of proportion and content proceeds through each work. Each painting depends on the others for interpretation. They are a handwriting. Although the writing style is relatively uniform, each picture has a uniquely based origin in my emotions or wherever a particular painting comes from. Its themes are the art of painting, or my perceptions of the world, or the renderings of my insides.”

This exhibition occurs during a time of increased visibility for the artist and increased attention to this particularly moment in her oeuvre. Her visually-striking Equivalent (1983), an oil and graphite painting measuring more than nine feet across, is currently on view at the Carnegie Museum of Art following the institution’s reinstallation of its Postwar and Contemporary Art Galleries in 2018.

Joan Witek (b. 1943, New York, NY) has used the color black for much of her life as an artist. While appearing to be straightforward, there is a persistent language of proportion and meaning in her abstraction. Black is usually considered the absence of color. It is severe, rigorous, and associated with emptiness and repression. But as Lilly Wei has written, “Witek plays these oppositions in her work: black being ascetic and alluring, meditative and expressive, flawless and flawed, fierce and demure, a distinct unequivocal presence, yet subtle, elusive.”

Joan Witek lives and works in New York City. Her select solo exhibitions include Jason McCoy Gallery, Outlet Fine Art, Atea Ring Gallery, Bartha Contemporary, Kouros Gallery, CDS Gallery, Wynn Kramarsky, John Davis Gallery, and Rosa Esman Gallery.

Recent group exhibitions include Positive, Negative at Massey Klein Gallery (New York, NY); Crossroads: Carnegie Museum of Art’s Collection, 1945 to Now at the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh, PA); Painting Black at Stiftung Konzeptuelle Kunst (Soest, Germany); Black & White: Modern and Contemporary Positions at Jason McCoy Gallery (New York, NY); Kunstmuseum Wilhelm-Morgner-Haus (Soest, Germany); Drawn / Taped / Burned: Abstraction on Paper at the Katonah Museum of Art (Katonah, NY); Black and White at Galleri Weinberger (Copenhagen, Denmark); Sammlung Schroth, Kloster (Wedinghausen, Germany); and Bartha Contemporary (London, UK).

Her work can be found in many prominent public collections, including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Arkansas Arts Center, Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, and the Yale University Art Gallery, among others.



from March 07, 2020 to October 24, 2020

Opening Reception on 2020-03-07 from 16:00 to 18:00


Joan Witek

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