Among the many rewards of Terry Winters’s recent double show-small collages in one gallery, large abstract paintings in another-were the views it afforded into his thought process.
“Notebook, 2003-2011” featured 30 collages, all mounted on 11-by-8½-inch binder pages. The uppermost layer of each is clear acetate on which an image is printed; the acetates usually bear a website address, plainly indicating the source. Among the images: mathematical diagrams, medical illustrations, a telescope, a bar code. These overlap other pictures underneath, which are often more playful and include aliens, tightrope walker Philippe Petit, a rollercoaster and a child’s felt-pen drawings (the only drawn elements in the show). In Notebook 158, an additive color diagram (transparent circles of red, green and blue) sits on top of a photo of a monkey, whose round head echoes the colored shapes. Throughout the series, various color systems turn up. In Notebook 113, a Winsor & Newton oil-color chart lies under a complex geometric figure of intersecting black gridded shapes. Unlike the type of collage in which elements occupy the same surface, “Notebook” presents stratified components.
Winters seems to see in layers in his paintings, as well. Down the street were 11 large oils, the majority of them from the series “Tessellation Figures” (2011). While you register the tessellated structures, you also perceive that Winters’s paintings are wonderfully loose, constructed as if in vigorous, improvisational response to each painted moment. Many works consist of color worlds unto themselves and remind you that color is light.
Tessellation Figures (9), 80 by 76 inches, spans orange to cobalt blue, with a renegade phthalo blue poking through occasionally to shake up the system. The painting suggests depth, yet its primary events are pressed as if from behind to the very surface in shimmering tension. A not-quite-complete grid of small, irregular diamonds covers the canvas. These are composed of many semitransparent layers that build to impasto. The negative space between the shapes appears in slats of thin, often scratched paint. On the perimeter of the picture, the diamonds are a range of tinted pinks against a field of dark browns, forming a frame within the frame. In the resulting inner rectangle, distinctions between figure and ground blur, and the colors shift from full-bodied oranges and reds to blues and purples. What looks at first like an orange ground beneath the diamonds becomes, under closer scrutiny, many more strata of diamonds.
In this same mid-section are three rows of Winters’s signature form: a lobed blob. (Such forms appear often in his 2008 “Knotted Graphs” paintings.) Here, the blobs seem to grow from or around the diamonds. Winters is a master of establishing patterns, then dissolving, interrupting and transforming them. It’s as if the paintings themselves are caught in acts of evolving.
Photo: Terry Winters: Notebook 113, 2003-11, collage, 11 by 8½ inches; at Matthew Marks.