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Douglas Witmer: Call and Response

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Overview

The exhibition “Douglas Witmer – Call and Response” is a multi-faceted project that highlights the artist’s recent work, while demonstrating the integral relationship between an artist and a museum and the dialogues artists form with art that comes before them. For this exhibition, the Museum invited Witmer to curate works from the collection to be installed in conversation with his work. Witmer created several new large-scale paintings for this show. And the Museum is proud to publicly debut Witmer’s major 2020 work “Forty, For You,” a 40-piece suite of paintings and original music compositions intended as a contemplative experience.

Witmer’s relationship to The Midwest Museum of American Art began in the early 1990s when, as a student at Goshen College, he met, studied-under and occasionally assisted MMAA director Brian Byrn, forming an ongoing friendship. Since then Witmer has become internationally-known within the field of reductive abstract painting, steadily pursuing what he calls “a personal inquiry” into the materiality of the painted object.

Regarding his recent work, Witmer says, “My enduring subject is the exploration of painted presence. I consider each painting a unique place offering an open invitation into a contemplative experience of seeing and feeling. I achieve this using a highly process-driven approach within the framework of a kind of formalist abstraction. I activate  elemental compositions with sensuous color and improvised and incidental actions. Working in thin watery layers, I establish rectilinear structures that I subject to accident-like situations where resulting marks cannot be expected or anticipated. The fluidity of the paint and my process sets up challenging dynamics of control and release. In my painting I calibrate the tension of these dynamics towards expressive outcomes.”

Douglas Witmer’s work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions. In 2011 an exhibition spanning ten years of the artist’s work was mounted at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. Other venues include: MoMA PS1, The Curator Gallery, and The Painting Center (all NYC), The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Tiger Strikes Asteroid (Philadelphia), Hemphill Fine Arts (Washington, DC), ICON Contemporary Art (Brunswick, ME), The Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, The University of Maryland, The University of Dayton, Galerie Biesenbach (Germany), ParisCONCRET (France), Galerie Mathias Mayr (Austria), Sydney Non-bjective (Australia), and Sol del Rio Arte Contemporanea (Guatemala City). His work is held in the collections of The Woodmere Art Museum, The Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska, The Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia and The Fellowship of The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and numerous private collections internationally.

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