by JOHN WINSLOW
FRASER GALLERY (Bethesda)
October 10 - November 12 2003
Something like twenty years ago, I was talking to John Winslow. We were on the road from West Lafayette, IN, where I was a student at Purdue University, to Chicago, IL, where my mom, Washington art dealer Jane Haslem, was going to show some of John's work at the Chicago Art Fair. We were talking about art. John was already a fine, established artist, and I was the interested undergraduate. "So," I remember John asking me at one point, "does art imitate life or is it the other way around?" Luckily, I had a ready answer; I had studied enough of logic to know that John was presenting me with what is called a faulty dilemma, an either-or proposition like, which came first, the chicken or the egg? I grinned. "Both," I said.
Back in those days John was producing gorgeous still lifes of subjects he was finding both in and around his studio. One of my favorite paintings was of a young woman positioned on a chair so that you could see her profile, but not her face, which was turned away from the viewer in the direction of a window. Then, I understood the woman to be merely a woman; she was seated indoors and looking out through a window at something outside. I found the painting compelling because it was well painted and because I could try to imagine what was outside the window. It didn't occur to me that still lifes could transcend the literal or that objects might act as metaphors. After all, I was an undergraduate.
Today, though, I understand the painting as an extended metaphor. John wasn't painting just a woman, but rather a representation of his artistic desire in search of thematic vocabulary. The studio provided John a context, and the window established a point of view, or, more accurately, a point of departure. John was not so much studying his relationship with the woman as he was exploring his relationship with the world outside his studio. The word "relationship" is intended to imply a kind of communication model that is useful to keep in mind when looking at John's work. It involves John, his medium, and his public, which also includes John. The relationship is fluid and dynamic, and through it John can explore himself, his artistry, and the world in which he lives and produces his art.
It was this relationship which John explored in his earlier work and which he continues to explore in his most recent works. Take, for example, John's "Aerial Troupe." In this erudite composition, we see John poised between two planes. At his back is John's context: his urbane past or perhaps the artistic tradition out of which he is working. Before him, all on the same plane, are an aerial troupe and an audience. The troupe performs above a canvas which is being painted while the audience looks on. The troupe is John's thematic vocabulary: art as performance. It is bright, interactive, acrobatic, thrilling, and sometimes even a bit clownish. The audience is variously interested in John, in his work, or even only in themselves. Thus, what John has created in the troupe is a transactive medium through which he can simultaneously explore his past, himself , his painting, and the world in which he lives. It is a very complicated world, full of discrete and integral relationships.
In the past John was never so bold as to render in specific terms what makes being a human being so complicated. In his mature work, he is much more comfortable doing exactly that. What I find especially interesting about John's new work is that despite its specificity, the painting succeeds precisely because it manages to defy easy interpretation. Is John seeing himself from one painting to the next, between one artistic movement and the next? Is he interrogating the artist's relationship with his public, or is he examining the myriad conscious and unconscious elements which prefigure and figure ourselves, our work, our world? Does art imitate life, or is it the other way around? View John's work and decide for yourself.
John A. Haslem, Jr. Ph.D. ArtlinePlus Critic
John Winslow and his Work
What is John Winslow telling us? He is telling us he loves to paint. He loves the feel of brushes with oil being put on the canvas. He is telling us about himself and his place in the contemporary art world where painting is considered a thing of the past. For him, painting is alive and well and has moved to an altogether new dimension. He is talking to us about figuration, abstraction, balance, composition and color. Yet his images remain recognizable. They move together in an abstract pattern. Once more his figures jump in space, float through air where they know no gravity. They leap off the canvas in defiance of the flat painted surface. In this manner Winslow tells us about his thoughts, in a sense, everyman's thoughts, his relationships with his fellow mankind. And he is always included in his paintings as a sort of icon, watching, wondering, questioning, and thinking. His best works are created in a large format – it is as if he needs to spread his wings and fly with all those images in his head. He is inviting us, the viewers, to understand the wonder and beauty in life and to join in his ride through his great mixing bowl of thoughts, images, color and life.
To be recognized as an important artist of substance and maturity one must study, practice, and practice some more while always remaining focused on pushing the work being created to an ever higher level. Winslow has certainly done this, he has paid his dues. He has remained steadfastly consistent in this endeavor since receiving his MA in painting from Yale University over fifty years ago. He has done little to promote himself but rather applied all his energies, skill, and thorough knowledge of the art masters that have come before to continue in this great tradition of painting.
Jane N Haslem
1938 Washington, DCeducation
1963 Yale School of Art, Yale University, New Haven, CT, MFApublic collections
1962 Yale School of Art, Yale University, New Haven, CT, BFA
1960 Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, AB
American University Museum at the Katzen Art Center, Washington DC
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford CONN
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge MA
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston MA
Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, Laurel, MS
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis MINN
Milwaukee Art Center, Milwaukee WI
New Orleans Museum of Art LA
The Fort Worth Art Museum, Fort Worth TX
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco CA
The High Museum of Art, Atlanta GA
The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn NY
San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio TX
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis IN
Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, AZ
Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh PA
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia PA
In the galleries: An artist's past, present and future
By Mark Jenkins, The Washington Post, July 10, 2015
The oldest painting in "Realism Transformed: John Winslow's Wild New World" is a portrait of three children. It was executed in a neo-classical style in 1973, the year of the D.C. artist's first local solo show. The picture is included in this American University Art Museum retrospective not to demonstrate what the veteran painter does, but what he can do. Of course, the more recent canvases also display Winslow's formidable abilities. But the directness of the early work has been supplanted by a multifaceted approach.
Acknowledging the theatricality of traditional studio painting, Winslow stages his paintings as scenes on sets, often seen from dramatically elevated vantage points. Since the pictures are performances of a sort, they may include actors, dancers and technicians. Figures from art history also can appear, and self-portraits are common. To convey the act of painting, and the thinking of the painter, Winslow incorporates spectral figures, geometric shapes and regions of sheer abstraction. As subject and form merge, everything is fair game. Yet realism is still the bedrock.
The least figurative pictures, such as 1990's "The Armchair," recall Cubism and Futurism's attempts to see every aspect simultaneously and to convey motion by exploding objects in multiple directions. But 2015's "Self" realistically depicts the artist on his studio floor, a painted small-town backdrop tilted behind him. This contrived yet entirely representational scene suggests an artistic journey that has carried Winslow back to a place that's both the same as and different from 40 years ago.