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 Terry Winters  (1949 - )

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: mod-biotic expression, abstraction, printmaking, collage

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Terry Winters
from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is excerpted from "Terry Winters: An Imagist Who Dances With Chance" from The New York Times:
August 22, 2001, By JEFFREY KASTNER

TERRY WINTERS greets a guest at the door of his TriBeCa studio, apologizing for the din of the air-conditioner struggling to cool his large workspace. Inside, a few half-finished paintings lean against the walls, work on them temporarily suspended as Mr. Winters prepares for a trip to his second home, in Geneva. Just a few weeks earlier, the Metropolitan Museum of Art had opened a retrospective of his prints, organized by Nan Rosenthal. It was "a kick," says Mr. Winters, an urbane New Yorker who as an art-loving boy from Brooklyn was a frequent visitor to the museum.

"I was there a while ago," he continues, "in the shipping department, where they have all these photos of the Met over the years. There was a picture of the people waiting to see the `Mona Lisa,' and I thought, `I was actually on one of those lines.'"

It's an instance, perhaps, of what the contemplative Mr. Winters is getting at when he speaks of "collaborations with circumstance," a concept he often invokes to express the balance between intention and serendipity that characterizes his creative process. Considered one of his generation's most distinguished printmakers, Mr. Winters, 52, is probably best known as a painter, though he is also a prolific draftsman. If the show at the Met provides its own distinctive vantage on the artist's process, it also represents a coming-full-circle of sorts for Mr. Winters. Because he has always kept his various artistic pursuits feeding one another, the prints offer important insights into the trajectory of a 20-year career devoted to open-ended experimentation.

Determined to be an artist from his earliest days, Mr. Winters attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan in the mid-1960's, spending his free time in the nearby 57th Street galleries. After graduating, he ended up in SoHo's nascent artist community, while commuting back to Brooklyn to attend the Pratt Institute, where he studied fine art as well as architecture and industrial design. When he finished college, in 1971, Mr. Winters set to painting, supporting himself with odd jobs and producing work in a spare, graphic style often featuring simple structures sketched against cool, minimal grounds.

"Architecture is really where my interest in structures came from," Mr. Winters says. "But my broader interest has always been in trying to describe immanent forces rather than transcendental forms. When I was at Pratt, I was involved with process art, and my own work was very process-oriented, focused on materials and procedures for laying on paint. I was trying to fuse my interest in painting with the concerns of that other art, to see what kind of paces I could put painting through. And so the focus became trying to find a way to cantilever that out to find a sort of subject matter."

As the decade went on, that subject matter increasingly tended toward generative organic structures: bulbs and seeds, hive like or branching shapes typically rendered in oils and set in indeterminate compositional spaces like stylized botanical illustrations. Though exhibited infrequently, Mr. Winters's work caught the eye of the New York dealer Ileana Sonnabend, who gave him his first solo exhibition in 1982. Another person intrigued by these initial efforts was Bill Goldston, who invited Mr. Winters to work at Universal Limited Art Editions, the Long Island-based print workshop.

Collaborating with Mr. Goldston and others, Mr. Winters first explored lithography, in which a design is essentially drawn on a stone or metal plate in a greasy medium that picks up ink, then transferred to paper. After a number of tentative starts, Mr. Goldston and Mr. Winters made a breakthrough with three lithographs that the artist called the "Morula" series, borrowing the scientific term for the fertilized ova whose shapes they recalled.

Like Mr. Winters's paintings from the period, the images in the suite suggest a botanist's hallucination: dark vegetal pods that loom like magnified spores; ripe organic forms with latticework skeletons set in backgrounds dotted with gestural smudges; and bits of sketched marginalia. These "eggs" proved auspicious, for they inaugurated what would become a careerlong engagement with printmaking.

The artist worked in lithography off and on over the next few years at Universal Limited, producing several single prints as well as "Folio" (1985-1986), his first set designed to be published as a group. Featuring a large geodesic sphere on its cover and demonstrating a growing freedom with color, the 11-print "Folio" announced Mr. Winters's command of his new medium and suggested the future direction of his printmaking investigations. He was going deeper into mechanics, presentation and the fundamental forms he had adopted as an artistic vocabulary.

"So much of the contemporary world is driven by abstract processes," he adds. "Whether it's developments in chaos and complexity theory or computers and scientific visualization, it all feeds new ideas about abstract imagery and the importance of the visual in conjunction with conceptual or computational developments. The old modernist oppositions between the retinal and the intellectual just really don't function anymore."

About the same time, Mr. Winters turned to his sketchbooks with a burst of energy. Over a six-month period in 1995 and 1996 he produced a large number of drawing series, including Computation of Chains, a suite of 125 works in ink that he calls "a kind of gene pool," which continued to feed aspects of both his painting and printmaking for years.

Today, Mr. Winters continues to seek fresh means of extending his artistic investigations, often in collaboration with others, a way of working he first encountered in the print studio. Among his just-completed print-related projects, in collaboration with the choreographer Trisha Brown, is the design for the backdrops, objects for the stage and costumes for "El Trilogy," a jazz-related suite of dances that had its New York premiere this summer. And the most recent work in the Met show is also a product of collaboration, in this case with the Swiss literary critic Jean Starobinski. The two men had met during one of Mr. Winters's frequent stays in Switzerland, the homeland of his wife, the art historian Hendel Teicher.

The men began their project in 1996, agreeing to produce responses to each other's work. The finished book, Perfection, Way, Origin (Universal Limited Art Editions, 2001), includes 10 of Mr. Winters's etchings from the time of their original correspondence, along with an additional 28 he produced later. It also features an English translation of an essay by Mr. Starobinski, an erudite meditation on chance, intent and invention, on the aesthetic ideal and creative freedom.


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