Historical Journal

Journal Archives,Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Archives,Reviews

Warren Rohrer: An Exhibition of Paintings

March 5, 1982
Judith Stein

A writer and curator, studied at Barnard College, and has a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Eye of the Sixties, Richard Bellamy and the Transformation of Modern Art, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016). Her curatorial projects include Red Grooms, A Retrospective, for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and The Figurative Fifties, New York School Figurative Expressionism, co-curated with Paul Schimmel. Her exhibition, I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin, traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1995, and earned a best catalogue award from AICA/USA. Her articles, interviews and reviews have appeared in Art in America, Art News, and The New York Times Book Review, as well as on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and Morning Edition. Among her honors is a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant; a Pew Fellowship for literary non-fiction; and a Lannan Foundation writing residency in Marfa, Texas.

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"Each painting demonstrates how a color is relational and positional. Color is pure or diluted, dulled, lightened, warmed or cooled, covers or is covered. "

March 5 through April 18, 1982
Sometimes, when looking at Rohrer’s paintings, there are exciting moments when we see unintended correspondences to life, the happenstancial mimesis of water, sky or land. But more electric are the instances when we look at life and discover intimations of his own artistic vision. There is a natural consonance between Rohrer’s dappled, abstract canvases and the scalloped swells of a hornet’s nest, or the toothy signature of a chain-saw blade. Like the artisans who glazed speckled spongeware, or decorated chests with painted grains, Rohrer conveys his body rhythms in the patterning of strokes. His sources lie here in the world of crafts, as much as they do in the history of painting.
The artist uses square canvases, periodically changing the designation of top and bottom by shifting its position a quarter turn. On the underlayers, Rohrer’s marks may follow a cylindrical or diagonal path, or bell in the center like the profile of a derby. On what he calls this layer of ”writing,” Rohrer will take color for a walk, stepping it through an intuited sequence of transitions in hue and value. His canny ability to calculate a hue’s relative and real value while controlling its weight and density is most evident in the top layer. Frequently, the edges serve as a record of process, offering a partial window through the multiple surfaces which are otherwise difficult to disengage. Rohrer’s paintings have the presence of ethereal forces, persuaded by his gestural eloquence into more permanent residence.

Judith Stein
Coordinator, Morris Gallery

Artist Statement
The paintings are meant to be read without reference, as purely visual, experienced directly, without the noise of the verbal or the interference of the written. I’ve meant to make paintings that are as basic as a potato and as persuasive as an orchard in bloom. I want them to be the equivalent to handing you something I’ve taken from my pocket, saying, ”this is it.”
Each painting demonstrates how a color is relational and positional. Color is pure or diluted, dulled, lightened, warmed or cooled, covers or is covered. For only a moment is any color constant, as it makes visible its passage from one visual formation to another. A magenta moves from upper left to lower righ t and firms in a blackened band, a green mixes with and settles toward a violet. Each is cumulative as rows and layers of strokes, almost disguised, form the painting surface. These strokes are the motor for determining the beat. I’m excited to acknowledge the pulsating rhythm that results.

Warren Rohrer
1. Settlement: Magenta, 1980
Oil on Canvas
72 x 72”
2. Settlement: Toward Red, 1981
Oil on Canvas
72 x 72”
3. Settlement: Blue, 1981
Oil on Canvas
66″ 66″
4. Passage 4, 1982
Oil on Canvas
60 ” x 60 ”
5. Passage 3, 1982
Oil on Canvas
60″ x 60”
6. Passage 2, 1981
Oil on Canvas
60 x 60″
7. Passage 1, 1981
Oil on Canvas
60” x 60”
8. Place: Red, 1981
Oil on Canvas
10″ x 10”
9. Place: Magenta, 1981
Oil on Canvas
10” x 101″
10. Place: Dulled Violet, 1981
Oil on Canvas
10″ x 10”
11. Place., Yellow, 1982
Oil on Canvas
10” x 10”
12. Settlement: Green to Violet, 1981
Oil on Canvas
66″ x 66″

Solo Exhibitions (Selected)
Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, 1963; Makler Gallery, Philadelphia, 1963, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1971; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington, DE, 1964; Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA, 1967; Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, 1969; Marian Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980; Lamagna Gallery, New York City, 1976.

Group Exhibitions (Selected)
Pittsburgh International, 1955, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art, 1976, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Contemporary Drawings: Philadelphia 1, 1978, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; A Sense of Place, The Artist and the American Land, 1973, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska; Made in Philadelphia II, 1974, Institute of Contemporary Art Delaware Water Gap, 1975, Corcoran Gallery of Art; Four Painters, 1977, Susan Caldwell Gallery, New York City.

Bibliography (Selected)
Philadelphia, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Contemporary Drawings: Philadelphia 1 (Introductions by Frank Goodyear and Anne Percy), 1978.
_________, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Philadelphia: Three Centuries of American Art (introduction by Darrell Sewell and text by Anne d’Harnoncourt, pp. 622-624), 1976.

Donohoe, Victoria, ”Art,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7, 1980.
Forman, Nessa, “Art,” Philadelphia Sunday Bulletin, March 3, 1974.
Frank, Peter, ”New York Reviews,” Art News, Vol. 75 (May 1976), p. 134.
Heinemann, Susan, “Reviews,” Artforum, Vol. 13 (January 1975), pp. 66-67.
McFadden, Sarah, “Report From Philadelphia,” Art In America, Vol. 67 (May-June 1979), pp. 21-31.
Stewart, Patricia, “Warren Rohrer,” Arts Magazine, Vol. 75 (March 197 6), p. 5.
FILM: WARREN ROHRER: Artist and the Land, Filmmaker and producer: Tony Arzt, New York, N.Y., for United States International Communications Agency,1978.
VIDEO TAPE: Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ”Warren Rohrer,” for the exhibition: Philadelphia-Houston Exchange, 1976. Five minutes.
The Morris Gallery displays the works of outstanding contemporary artists with a connection to Philadelphia, determined by birth, schooling or residence. The exhibitions are chosen by a committee composed of area artists, museum personnel and collectors, and the curatorial staff of the Academy. Currently serving on the Morris Gallery Exhibition Committee are: Bo Bartlett, Murray Dessner, Walter Erlebacher, Janet Kardon, Charles Mather, III, Dr. Perry Ottenberg, David Pease, Ann Percy, Jody Pinto, Jim Repenning, Rachel Seymour, Acey Wolgin; and Academy staff Richard Boyle, Frank Goodyear, Kathy Foster, Linda Bantel, Judith Stein.
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