Joan Witek: Paintings from the 1980s

Joan Witek, Las Meninas (P(S)-9), 1980
Oil stick and graphite on canvas
68 x 92 inches / 172.7 x 233.7 cm
Courtesy the artist and Artist Estate Studio, LLC, Brooklyn

March 7 – April 25, 2020
Opening: Saturday, March 7, 4-6pm

(Press release forthcoming.)

At a time when the very validity of the Modernist canon is being questioned and reassessed, the paintings and drawings of Joan Witek are set for rediscovery. Powerful, yet haunting in their monochromatic pulse, decade after decade Witek has created variations on variations motivated solely by the color black. Over the years, she has adopted her own processes, borrowed from a language devised in the 1960s and 1970s by the likes of Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, and her neighbor Richard Serra. Electing to use only black, Witek has produced compositions that deliberately avoid formal and coloristic drama associated with much of Post-War American art.

Black is, quite simply, the color of language.” –Joan Witek, September 2019

I am attracted to black because of the beauty of the color and for me, its infinite variety. It is a color that has been my inspiration since I began painting.” –Joan Witek

Joan Witek has used the color black for much of her life as an artist. While appearing to be simple and easily grasped, there is an ongoing language of proportion and meaning in this abstraction for her. Black is usually considered the absence of color: it is severe, rigorous, associated with emptiness and repression. But as Lilly Wei has written: “Witek plays these oppositions in her work: black being ascetic and alluring, meditative and expressive, flawless and flawed, fierce and demure, a distinct unequivocal presence, yet subtle, elusive.”

This exhibition, mounted in collaboration with Artist Estate Studio, LLC, will present a survey of Joan Witek’s paintings from the 1980s, many of which are on view for the first time.

Joan Witek (b. 1943, New York, NY) lives and works in New York City. Selected solo exhibitions include: Jason McCoy Gallery (’15); Outlet Fine Art, Brooklyn (’14); Atea Ring Gallery (’06, ’02); Gallery Niklas van Bartha, London (’03); Kouros Gallery (‘03); CDS Gallery (’01); Wynn Kramarsky (’97); John Davis Gallery (’87, ’88); Rosa Esman Gallery (’85, ’85); and “Joan Witek: Paintings 1980-1983, Drawings 1976-1984,” Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA (1984).

Selected group exhibitions include “Crossroads: Carnegie Museum of Art’s Collection, 1945 to Now,” Carnegie Museum of Art (2018); “Painting Black,” Stiftung Konzeptuelle Kunst, Soest, Germany (2018); “Black & White: Modern and Contemporary Positions,” Jason McCoy Gallery, New York; Kunstmuseum Wilhelm-Morgner-Haus, Soest, Germany (2013); “Drawn / Taped / Burned: Abstraction on Paper,” Katonah Museum of Art (2011); “Black and White,” Gallerie Weinberger, Copenhagen, Denmark (2010); Sammlung Schroth, Kloster Wedinghausen, Arnsberg, Germany (2011, 2012); Gallery Niklas von Bartha, London (2009).

Her work can be found in many prominent public collections including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (NY), Arkansas Arts Center (AR), Fogg Art Museum at Harvard (MA), Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), Museum of Modern Art (NY) and the Yale University Art Gallery (CT), among others.