NEIL WELLIVER: OIL STUDIES
May 1, 2004 through June 18, 2004
Catalogue available with texts by Mark Strand and Robert M. Doty

An exhibition surveying the oil study paintings of Neil Welliver will be on view at ALEXANDRE GALLERY from May 1 through June 18, 2004. This show marks the first New York presentation since 1980 of this seldom seen aspect of Welliver’s work. It will include over forty-five examples painted between 1973 and the present. Sizes range from 9 x 10 to 24 x 36 inches.

While well known for his monumentally scaled—often 84 or 96 inches square— depictions of the Maine woods, Welliver begins each large picture with easel sized works painted on site in all seasons and conditions, each usually completed in a few days. Constructed with marks of pure color against color, painted wet on wet, Welliver captures his varied subjects with fluid strokes, vivid immediacy and intricate detail. Frank Goodyear writes: “Welliver’s perpetual genius is a balance between the objective and the non-objective, between the particular and the general, and between images and materials . . . the subject of landscape becomes a vehicle of expression for his deep commitment to the ideals of contemporary painting.” (1985).

Subjects include: snow covered fallen fir trees, rushing icy water in thawing spring streams, boulder strewn hills, dense groves of birch and old growth spruce, verdant leaves of early spring, and vibrant autumn foliage.

Welliver has said that he “looks very hard at his subject, and then makes it up.” This method contributes to a strong play between illusionism and abstraction, especially in the pictures after 1980. This relationship between the materiality of the paint surface and the illusionistic space is often created by the interplay of light on surface and space. Welliver acknowledges that the vitality of his own art comes from Abstract Expression-ism, and that he has a natural affinity for pure abstraction.
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Welliver was born in 1929 in rural Pennsylvania. He attended the Philadelphia Museum College of Art and the Yale School of Art. At Yale he studied with and taught for Josef Albers, whom he considers his most important influence. In 1966 he founded the Graduate School of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania where he remains a Professor Emeritus.

Welliver’s work has been the subject of over seventy one-person exhibitions.
His work is included in numerous private and public collections including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Today Welliver is actively involved in local Maine government where he remains fiercely committed to the preservation of the environment. His 1,600 acres are presently being protected from possible future development through the creation of land trusts.

The critic Robert Hughes has written: “(His) landscapes are ‘all-over’ paintings, slices taken from a boundless field of pictorial incident. They pay homage to the materialism of Courbet, to the large-scale nineteenth-century American landscape, and to Abstract Expressionism, all at once. His large paintings of Maine woods could only have matured in the thirty years after Pollock.” (1997).

The poet Mark Strand writes: “Under the virtuosic manipulation of paint, behind the illusion-making, the suave conceptual grandeur that makes his Maine woods a
virtual sufficiency of self, are an urgency and an energy that are stunning. This is why Welliver’s paintings seem so emotionally dense, so assertive in their naturalness.”

Neil Welliver is represented exclusively by ALEXANDRE GALLERY. His exhibition NEIL WELLIVER: EARLY FIGURATIVE PAINTINGS was presented in January 2002.

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