(Images below; top, A Trace of Something I Want to Feel Again; bottom, We'll Get Away With It.)
Douglas Witmer at Blank Space, NY
A pair of paintings in Ring the Bells Anew arrested my attention quickly upon turning the corner: A Trace of Something I Want to Feel Again and We’ll get Away with It. It was an impulse for which I couldn’t find a reason (not that it was completely necessary to)…until I spoke briefly with Douglas Witmer about them, and found out that they had two related common denominators. They were the same size canvas, and that particular ratio was a new one for Witmer. That said, they fit nicely into my resonation with the show’s title: Witmer is ringing a very old bell, but the tintinnabulum never grows old: in fact, the results feel as fresh as does every toll from a bell tower greeting a new day. The possibilities continue.
The delicately strong voice of A Trace… pulled at me first – a large, soft monolith the hue of a Japanese anemone…or who knows; perhaps the evanescence of peonies in May. Regardless, it was flowery in the best sense; an exquisite waterfall of delicately scented orchid that one keeps near so as to prolong its effect. Which brings me to the second of several strong (and strengthening) components of Witmer’s work: the activity occurring “behind” those soft monoliths – dripping; spreading; fading in and out – playing with the memories we are beginning to fall into within the frontal colors. It keeps us engaged; on our toes; keeps us from losing ourselves in our personal, nostalgic response to the dominant colored blocks.
A third strength is the vastly differing movements of the brushstrokes in the frontal colors – up; down; back and forth – all with their own particular evocations of emotion or memorial. Cascades – green, orange, red, light yellow – or strata lain like bricks. All this is really only noticeable upon long perusal – but that is crucial anyway, to really absorbing these pieces. That said, the intelligent and harmonious hang did remind me that Witmer’s work rewards varying levels of looks. Like a bold landscape, they can be enjoyed both very quickly – like a drive-by from a window (a quality I associate with Blinky Palermo – a promenade of flags), or painstakingly slow, pulled apart as a
portraitist might separate his sitter into individual components, and then reassemble them according to a new system. Regardless, Ring the Bells Anew will remind you of something which you treasure, and still shower with an affection long fostered.
Blank Space Art