Warren Rohrer: Passages in White Light

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Warren Rohrer Passages in White Light


Study - Barley, 1972 gouache on paper 10 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches


Warren Rohrer Passages in White Light

Warren Rohrer’s “white” paintings, which span from the 1970s and early 1990s, reflect a facet of his work focused on fusing light and matter through paint. His atmospheric abstractions with series titles such as White Shift, White Drift, and Passage, respond to continuously shifting light conditions and the perceptual effects of seasonal cycles and changes in the landscape. Art historical precedents including Robert Rauschenberg’s monochrome White Paintings from 1951 and Robert Ryman’s Minimalist experiments with white paint beginning in the 1960s, provide interesting counterpoints to understanding the range and function of white as a painterly medium. On view together for the first time, Rohrer’s “white” paintings were made at different times throughout the artist’s career and, by comparison, are hardly white at all. In his work, the Pennsylvania painter analyzed the natural colors of flora he picked up on walks in the Wissahickon woods and fields in Lancaster county, as well as flecks of white bark, snow-covered branches, and spontaneous patterns in nature. Often using tiny repetitive strokes across wide swaths of canvas, Rohrer’s idiosyncratic yet systematic method of mark-making tracks infinitesimal variations of light and incremental shifts in the surface and texture of his paintings. White becomes not a color itself per se but a conduit for color to emerge and move through the field of vision.


White Wheat, 1973 oil on linen 60 x 60 inches



Small White Drift 1, 1978 oil on linen 14 x 14 inches



White Drift 2, 1976 oil on linen 60 1/4 x 60 1/4 inches Private Collection



Continual Shift: Winter White, 1977 oil on linen 66 x 66 inches Private Collection





White Shift 1, 1978 oil on canvas 12 x 12 inches

White Shift 2, 1978 oil on canvas 12 x 12 inches Private Collection


White Shift 3, 1978 oil on canvas 12 x 12 inches

White Shift 4, 1978 oil on canvas 12 x 12 inches Private Collection




Passage 4, 1982 oil on linen 60 x 60 inches Private Collection



White Suspension, 1980 oil on linen 66 x 66 inches Private Collection



Per Pale White, 1985 oil on linen 60 x 60 inches Private Collection



Deluge, 1983 oil on canvas 66 3/8 x 66 3/8 inches Phillips Collection. Gift of Bayard Storey, 2010





Yellow Drop, 1982 oil on linen 12 x 12 inches



Untitled (Fingers),1992 oil on linen 16 x 16 inches



Legend, 1987 oil on gessoed 100% ragboard laminated to pressed board 15 1/4 x 15 1/4 inches





Field: Crossover, 1990 oil on ragboard mounted on pressboard, two panels 15 x 30 inches Private Collection



Score, 1989 oil on linen 16 x 16 1/8 inches Private Collection



Field: Linkage, 1990 oil on linen, four panels 24 1/4 x 96 3/4 inches





Field: Screen, 1990 oil on linen 36 1/4 x 36 1/8 inches Private Collection



Field: Two Marks, 1990 oil on linen 25 x 12 1/2 inches Private Collection





Previous Spread:

Untitled 4, 1993 oil on linen 54 x 113 1/2 inches Private Collection

Image on Left: Studio Shot (Palette Paper) by Eric Mitchell





Previous Spread:

One Two, 1992 oil on canvas 48 1/8 x 96 1/2 inches Private Collection

Photograph on Right: Installation View, Collection of National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. East Building, Gallery 406B Left: Warren Rohrer, Pond 1, 1975 Center: Annesculptor Truitt, Insurrection, 1962 Right: Agnes Martin, Untitled #3, 1996



Back and Forth, 1992 oil on linen 60 1/4 x 60 1/4 inches Private Collection




Warren Rohrer (American, 1927-1995) was a renowned figure in the painting and teaching community in Philadelphia beginning in the late 1960s. A survey of his paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2003 was a reassessment of his singular approach to abstraction, informed by his deeply rooted agricultural heritage. A 2016 monograph authored by philosopher and critic David Carrier is the most complete record of his oeuvre to date. Rohrer’s paintings are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Phillips Collection, among others.


Warren Rohrer : Passages in White Light Copyright Locks Art Publications Š2017 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means. electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or information retreival system, without permission from the publishers. Photography Credits: Tom Powell Imaging; Ava Hassinger; Joseph Hu; Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Rohrer Family/ Estate of Warren Rohrer; Eric Mitchell Photography; Locks Gallery. Art Direction and Design: Terrill Warrenburg


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