Douglas Witmer

“Fruitville”

June 19 – July 25, 2010

Press Release | Images | Essay | Resume

PRESS RELEASE

Some Walls is pleased to present Philadelphia-based artist Douglas Witmer’s exhibition Fruitville from June 20 – July 25, 2010.

Douglas Witmer is well known for his paintings which intuitively combine simple geometric imagery, emphatic color, and subtle manipulation of surface physicality. In addition to this widely-shown and growing body of work, for the past several years Witmer has worked on a series small three dimensional pieces using found wood as a support called Fruitville. This exhbition is the first time the Fruitville works have been shown publicly. Witmer has said about this series:

The Fruitville Pike is a road where I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It’s a major thoroughfare, but it doesn’t go to, from, or through anywhere called Fruitville. My efforts to find Fruitville, if there ever was such a place at all, have been inconclusive.
 
So Fruitville exists in my imagination as a kind of Eden; a place of purity, clarity, and quiet delight. It manifests itself in an ongoing visual process of experimentation with wood, paint, glue, paper, ink, light, and shadows. The things that make up my Fruitville exist to be in relationship to the places where they can be seen, and also in relationship with each other.

The sensitive, direct, and quirky color, spatial, and textural qualities that appear in Witmer’s paintings and works on paper are also found in the Fruitville series, continuing his approach to making art that is lush, playful, and deceptively simple, yet rigorous, iconic, and commanding.

Ten additional Fruitvilles works and five paintings- four on canvas, one on paper- are also available for viewing.
 
 
Some Walls is a curatorial and writing art project in a private home in Oakland, California. Some Walls is open by appointment only. To view the exhibition online please visit somewalls.com. To schedule a visit, or for more information, please contact Chris Ashley at info@somewalls.com.

Previous exhibitions:
 

IMAGES

 

ESSAY

Well-known for his paintings, most recently widely-exhibited works with precisely-placed bars of evocative color that float on casual-appearing yet skillfully-intercepted washy black-stained canvas grounds, Douglas Witmer’s Fruitville series might initially appear to be quite a different direction for the artist. The appearance of three dimensional art objects, small and intimate at no more than eight inches in any direction, might seem sudden, but actually Witmer has slowly worked on this series with great consideration for over ten years. These pieces have never been shown with his paintings, and in fact they have never before been publicly shown at all except on the artist’s web site. The Fruitville series are interestingly connected to Witmer’s paintings, and spark additional dialog about his overall ongoing project.
 
With some examination it becomes clear that the Fruitville series is another body of work with origins in Witmer’s working ideas. He writes, "A painting is not a statement. It is the evidence of painting[1]." In other words, painting is a unique activity that does not "say" anything; it is instead an activity with a visual result, and that visual result is a real thing that the viewer experiences. Witmer continues, "I want to believe that the relationship of painting values inquiry over conclusion[2]." The Fruitville works continue Witmer’s line of visual and material inquiry through the use of paint, surface, shape, space, color, line, and edge to make an object that engages the viewer in a worthy experience.
 
An encounter with Sienese painting during a difficult period years ago instigated Witmer’s investigation into the making and meaning of visual space with simple means on a flat surface using certain iconic-like shapes or motifs. In an interview this author conducted with Witmer in 2005, he related that, "…around that time I started investigating the issue the opposite way, by making tiny wooden reliefs—the Fruitville series— that projected out from the wall, but were subtly manipulated to make them appear flatter[3]." As further background Witmer says:
 
The Fruitville Pike is a road where I grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It’s a major thoroughfare, but it doesn’t go to, from, or through anywhere called Fruitville. My efforts to find Fruitville, if there ever was such a place at all, have been inconclusive.
 
So Fruitville exists in my imagination as a kind of Eden; a place of purity, clarity, and quiet delight. It manifests itself in an ongoing visual process of experimentation with wood, paint, glue, paper, ink, light, and shadows. The things that make up my Fruitville exist to be in relationship to the places where they can be seen, and also in relationship with each other[4].
 
The Fruitville works are made with single and combined pieces of found and scrap wood that have minimal but sensitive and explicit additions—one might even say interventions—of color in response to the wood’s surface and shape, usually with paint, occasionally with graphite, and sometimes collage. Works made with a single piece of wood are hung flat on the wall as low relief, while other works consist of two or more pieces that are stacked, aligned or counter-posed, or pedestal-like. Each work looks different; while some seem heavy and stable, others are light and precarious. All exert a kind compressed space that verges on the illusionistic but is suppressed by the object’s material presence and small size. They suggest an imaginary monumental scale that in reality can be cradled in one’s hand.
 
Rough and handmade, having remade something old or cast aside into something new, they range from funky to noble, homely to statuesque, naked to well-attired. Some pieces have barely anything done to them. One might think of the natural and used surfaces of these chunks as analogous to the backgrounds in Witmer’s paintings, where the effects of gravity on thinned black paint produce another kind of found surface. As in his paintings, where their making is evident, so too in the Fruitville works Witmer hides nothing; there are no tricks—the skill is in the finding, the combining and positioning, the addition or intervention.
 
Example: A narrow strip of roughly cut wood is horizontal, about one inch by eight inches, the two opposite ends of which are cut at an angle so that they face the viewer; the left end is painted a pale blue gray, the right is white—our eyes flit back and forth in binary fashion from one end to the other, forcing a kind of looking akin to closing one eye, then opening it and closing the other—while the wood’s vertical grain on the front plane is bare and seems to force it’s way out exaggeratedly into the viewer’s space, but because the material is so raw the depicted space constantly struggles to fully assert itself against the actual shallow space of the material, creating an odd tension in something so small.
 
Example: Two works made from wedges of wood are each hung vertically on the wall so that the heel of the wedge become the horizontal top of the piece—one wedge is long and thin, the heel end painted a smooth white, the edges of which have been sanded so that what would otherwise be a sharp-edged rectangle becomes a kind of floating pool of white at the top of a long thin shape, turning the wedge into a kind of stand, or altar, for a vaguely rectangular, sliver-thin, flat layer of white glowing above the dark weathered wood beneath it; the heel of the second wedge, thicker, shorter, and blunter, angles down slightly towards the viewer and is painted in six bands of orange, red, white, green, yellow, and blue, a motif closest to some found in Witmer’s paintings, here laid out like a carpet or serape, or the tip of a torch with a low level multi-colored flame, a puddle of melted ice cream atop a post-modern cone—this piece feels like a slice of life. 
 
Example: Four short pieces of smooth, thin wood, flat molding, perhaps, each about three inches high and one and a half inches wide, are stacked staggeredly and glued together, their beveled top edges aligned to suggest a stair-step space or slight ramp away from the viewer, but each slab’s end grain alternating left or right making a zigzag that appears as a succession of furrowed fields, or a plaza stretching off in the distance, or a tightly tiled patterned floor, all spaces and images found in paintings by one of Witmer’s inspirations, the Sienese Master of the Osservanza (active 1430-1450)[5].
 
While the works in the Fruitville series share materials and process, each is a unique example of Witmer’s extended investigation, demonstrating his wish to believe that, "the relationship of painting, when one devotes oneself to it, extends beyond the boundaries of a painting, however indefinite or unmeasureable this extension may seem to be[6]."
  1. Douglas Witmer: A Painting is Not a Statement. http://douglaswitmer.com/not-a-statement/
  2. Ibid.
  3. Chris Ashley: Interview With Douglas Witmer. 2005. http://www.minusspace.com/2005/12/interview-with-douglas-witmer-by-chris-ashley/
  4. Douglas Witmer: Fruitville. http://douglaswitmer.com/work/fruitville/
  5. An example of the Master’s work can be found in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art:. http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/103590.html. An overview of the Master’s work is online at the Web Gallery of Art: http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/m/master/osservan/.
  6. Ibid.

Chris Ashley
Oakland, CA
June 2010

 

RESUME

Douglas Witmer (website)
Douglas Witmer was born in 1971 in Winchester, VA and raised in Lancaster County, PA. He has lived and worked in Philadelphia since 1995.

Witmer’s work intuitively combines simple geometric imagery, emphatic color, and subtle manipulation of surface physicality. It is an inquiry into the materiality of seeing, perception, feeling and memory.

His work has been exhibited internationally. Recent venues include: P.S.1/MoMA, Blank Space Gallery, and The Painting Center (all NYC), The Philadelphia Cathedral, Pharmaka (Los Angeles), The University of Maryland, The University of Dayton (OH), Sydney Non-Objective (Australia), and Bus-Dori Project Space, Tokyo, Japan.

Education

  • 2001 M.F.A., The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
  • 1993 B.A., Goshen College, Indiana

Solo Exhibitions

2010

  • “Ring The Bells Anew,” Blank Space Art, New York, NY
  • “Fruitville,” Somewalls, Oakland, CA

2009

  • “Field + Stream,” The Painting Center, New York, NY
  • “Joseph’s Coat,” The Philadelphia Cathedral
  • “Joseph’s Coat,” Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis, MN

2008

  • “Today is the Day,” M55 Art, Long Island City, NY

2006

  • “The Black Keys, and other paintings,” Gallery Siano, Philadelphia, PA
  • “Contemplations,” Red Door Gallery, Richmond, VA

2005

  • Minus Space, Brooklyn, NY

2002

  • Peng Gallery, Philadelphia
  • Goshen College, IN

1997

  • University City Arts League, Philadelphia
  • University of Montana-Western, Dillon

Selected Group Exhibitions

2009

  • “I Decree Today,” Marx Gallery, Covington, KY
  • “Touch Faith,” Semantics, Cincinnati, OH
  • “246 Editions,” Pocket Utopia, Brooklyn
  • “Back on My Feet Benefit,” Bridgette Mayer Gallery, Philadelphia
  • “My Certain Fate,” Pharmaka, Los Angeles, CA

2008

  • “Minus Space,” PS1/MoMA, Long Island City, NY
  • “Considerable,” University of Dayton, OH

2007

  • “Summary, 2007,” Gallery Siano, Philadelphia
  • “Escape from New York,” Sydney Non Objective (SNO), Sydney, Australia (traveled to Curtin University in Perth, 2008, RMIT University School of Art in Melbourne, 2009)
  • “Across the Borderline,” collaborative works by Chris Ashley & Douglas Witmer, University of Dayton, OH
  • “I Walk the Line–Three Abstract Artists in the 21st Century,” Mary Early, Linn Meyers, & Douglas Witmer, University of Maryland, College Park.

2006

  • “Suitcase,” Bus-Dori, Tokyo, Japan

2005

  • “Douglas Witmer & Sandi Lovitz,” Pfenninger Gallery, Lancaster, PA

2004

  • “From the Studio,” The Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Philadelphia.
  • “Repetition and Transformation,” The Philadelphia Cathedral.

2003

  • “Dennis Lo, Leslie Wagner, & Douglas Witmer,” Peng Gallery, Philadelphia
  • “New Talent,” Signal 66, Washington, DC
  • “White Light,” The Beehive Salon, Philadelphia.
  • “From Abstraction to Representation,” The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, VA.

2001

  • “10 Young Painters,” Miami University of Ohio, Oxford
  • “Art in City Hall,” Philadelphia City Hall, Philadelphia

Bibliography/Videography

2009

  • Alexander, Steven, “Douglas Witmer at The Philadelphia Cathedral,” Steven Alexander Journal, February 14.
  • Kirsch, Andrea, “Philadelphia Notes: Contemplative Minimalism” Fallon & Rosof’s Artblog, Philadelphia PA, February 9.
  • Langley, Matthew, “Douglas Witmer at The Painting Center,” Matthew Langley Art Blog, June 18.
  • Mattera, Joanne, “Witmer, Patterson, at The Painting Center,” Joanne Mattera Art Blog, June 17.

2008

  • Hallard, Brent, “How Soon is Now?,” interview, Visual Discrepancies blog, Tokyo, Japan, December 5.

2007

  • Colaizzi, Vitorrio, “A Vigilant Turn from Complacency,” exhibition review, Brick Weekly, Richmond, VA, January 10
  • Koo, Li, “Gallery Notes: I Walk the Line,” podcast interview, University of Maryland, March
  • Newhall, Edith, “Summery Summary,” Philadelphia Inquirer, August 3
  • Wagner, Laura, “Art Pals Feature Works in Rike,” Dayton Flyer News, University of Dayton, Ohio, January 19.

2006

  • Gierschick, Tim, “Douglas Witmer at Gallery Siano,” exhibition review, Gierschickwork (on-line), December
  • Strickland, Heather, “Eclecticism on Display at Red Door Gallery,” The Collegian, University of Richmond, December 7

2005

  • Ashley, Chris, “In conversation with Douglas Witmer, essay and interview, Minus Space, Brooklyn, December
  • Hallard, Brent, “X Marks the Spot,” Project 131 (on-line / Tokyo, Japan), July
  • Hill, Lori, “First Friday Focus: Gallery Siano,” Philadelphia City Paper, Thursday, October 6
  • Holzman, Paula, “Two Takes on the Abstract,” Lancaster Intelligencer Journal, October 21
  • Romaniello, Vincent, “Artists on Video,” Romanblog (on-line / Philadelphia), January
  • Silverthorne, Alexandra, “Artists Interview Artists, Thinking About Art (on-line / Washington), July

2004

  • Doering, Elizabeth H., “Repetition and Transformation,” essay for exhibition of the same title, The Philadelphia Cathedral, January 2004
  • Fallon, Roberta, “A-List: Repetition and Transformation,” Philadelphia Weekly,” January 21

2002

  • Hill, Lori, “First Friday Focus: Peng Gallery,” Philadelphia City Paper, Thursday, April 4
  • Patterson, Carrie, “From Abstraction to Representation,” exhibition catalogue essay for exhibition of the same title, Andrews Gallery, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, November
  • Walz, Jonathan F., “Reality Check,” exhibition brochure essay, Peng Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, April

Residencies | Lectures | Critiques

2007

  • Lecture, New York Foundation for the Arts, New York
  • Visiting Artist/Critic, University of Dayton, OH

2006

  • Artist-in-Residence, Saint Mary’s College of Maryland, Saint Mary’s City

2005

  • Artist-in-Residence, Glen Arbor Art Association / Sleeping Bear Dune’s National Lakeshore, Glen Arbor, MI

2002

  • Visiting Artist/Lecture, Goshen College, IN

2000

  • Residency, Vermont Studio Center, Johnson (residency grant)

Collections

  • The Fellowship of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
  • Duane Morris, LLP, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, Atlanta, Lake Tahoe, San Diego, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City
  • Wolf, Block, Schorr, and Solis-Cohen, LLP, Philadelphia
  • NanoSystems, King of Prussia, PA
  • Numerous private collections in the United States