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PLAYING WHAT’S NOT THERE


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I try to capture the poetry and mystery in what I see. My paintings are all conceived by an image that strikes me as powerful or interesting in one sense or another. The image triggers an inquiry—often emotional, often playful—into elements of form, color, and narrative. I normally begin with the visual world: a pictorial idea. This can be something I have seen and perhaps sketched or photographed, or drawn from my collection of family photos, books and newspapers: the richly landscaped archives of memory. Whatever its origin, the image becomes my companion in the journey through my imagination and the demands of the medium. Together we evolve, complicate, suffer, celebrate, transform. Without a map and without direction, we are free to wander recklessly. Eventually, the painting itself takes over as guide, steering us toward some unexpected destination. As a result, the finished work bears little resemblance to the original visual idea. And while my paintings are not heavily theoretical or conceptualized, they all do share this same unfolding: the landscapes where we end up are quite foreign to the original scenic impulse. And while my paintings are not heavily theoretical or conceptualized, they all do share this same unfolding: the landscapes where we end up are quite foreign to the original scenic impulse. Such juxtaposition is of interest to me. My ongoing study of it offers a sometimes insightful, sometimes baffling education into my own art process and practice. Imagination plays a larger role than perception. Natural elements and geographic features – trees, water, clouds, sky – often become active forces in the life of the painting, forming mood and sentiment. The characters are often at the mercy of these forces. For me, the act of painting—the act of discovery—leaves me feeling similarly. It can be emotional and cathartic. The paintings themselves, as artifacts of this catharsis, become like specimens in a sort of personal, imaginary museum. Whit’s Museum. Welcome. As is the case with all museums, it’s best to wander aimlessly. I hope you enjoy your visit. – Whit Conrad


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Whit Conrad: Playing What’s Not There by Lucas Farrell In an interview, Miles Davis once famously quipped: “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.” In this new collection of vivid, playful, and idiosyncratic paintings, Whit Conrad has applied the jazz legend’s advice to his own work with signature gusto. While Conrad’s paintings often begin in a recognizable setting, sounding familiar notes in the viewer – a jazz club (“Jazzed Up”), a birthday party (“Birthday Party”), a polling place (“Electors”), a gathering around a dinner table (“Comanche Diptych”) – they always journey into those liminal zones between notes. According to Miles Davis, that is where the music lives. According to Conrad, so too the imagination: “Whatever its origin, the image becomes my companion in the journey through my imagination and the demands of the medium. Without a map and without direction, we are free to wander recklessly. Eventually, the painting itself takes over as guide, steering us toward some unexpected destination.” Highlighting the show is Conrad’s painting “Jazzed Up”. While a familiar pictorial scene is established (a jazz club), we are quickly led to an improvised world, where deeply felt elements of the experience—for instance, the musician’s hands pounding the keys furiously—suddenly proliferate like flowers blooming in time-lapse. Not surprisingly, the tempo upticks, and the canvas moves and sways. Reminiscent of a George Grosz tableau, the vivid décor takes on a life and direction(s) of its own, and suddenly several narratives present themselves, beckoning further inquiry. If there were a subtitle to the show, it might very well be “Come as You Are,” or the title of another painting in the exhibit, in which four costumed characters gather around an otherwise unornamented table. Are these characters in costume, or are they dressed precisely as themselves? Either way, the painting – like the show itself – is an invitation to a kind of come-as-you-are revelry of the mind. “Playing What’s Not There” requires faith and an adventurous spirit. Each painting leads us to a newly imagined place -- where we might delight in the local color, and engage the cast of eclectic characters that call it home. Forget your map and compass; the point is getting lost. There’s much to be discovered in the Not There.


Jazzed Up, 2015 8

Oil on Linen 50” x 80”


Bonefishing, 2016

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Ink and Acrylic on Linen 48” x 48”


Comanche Diptych, 2015 12

Ink and Acrylic on Linen 48” x 56”


Come as You Are, 2016 14

Oil on Linen 24” x 36”


Don’t Call Me Vulgar, 2016 16

Ink and Acrylic on Linen 48” x 36”


Easter Man, 2015 18

Oil on Linen 48” x 36”


Girl with Dog, 2016 20

Oil on Linen 36” x 24”


Goat with Bright Eyes, 2016 22

Oil on Linen 17” x 27”


The Electors, 2016

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Acrylic Ink and Acrylic on Linen 48” x 48”


Lady Luck, 2016

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Acrylic and Acrylic Ink on Canvas 24” x 36”


The Kerfuncken Jig, 2016 28

Oil on Linen 36” x 48”


Monday Bloody Monday, 2016 30

Oil over Acrylic on Linen 48” x 36”


Not My Birthday, 2016 32

Oil on Linen 36” x 48”


Sanctus, 2016 34

Oil on Linen 26” x 21”


Springtime, 2015

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Acrylic and Oil Stick on Linen 30” x 40”


Thanks for Dinner, 2016 38

Ink and Acrylic on Linen 30” x 40”


Untitled, 2016 40

Oil on Linen 48” x 36”


Untitled 2, 2015 42

Oil on Linen 40” x 30”


Untitled 3, 2016

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Acrylic Ink and Acrylic on Linen 48” x 36”


Bad News Day, 2016 46

Ink and Acrylic on Linen 30” x 40”


Welcome Home, 2017 48

Acrylic on Paper 39” x 48”


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Whit Conrad is a New York City and Bedford, NY based artist. He is a graduate of the New York Studio School in painting and drawing. His work has been shown at various public venues including: – Price Waterhouse Coopers lobby show, selected sculpture, 2008 – NYSS Gallery, solo shows, 2009, 2010, 2011 – Bedford Art Show, curated group shows, 2010, 2013, 2015 – Group Exhibition, Diego Salazar Gallery, New York City, 2013 – Knickerbocker Club Art Show, New York City, various years – Spinnaker Trust Art Show, Portland, ME, curated solo show, 2014 – Gallery Sensei, New York City, solo show, 2014 – The Lionheart Gallery, Pound Ridge, NY, solo show, 2015 – The Lionheart Gallery, Pound Ridge, NY, group show, 2015 – “Nest” installation, Katonah Museum of Art, 2016 – Gallery Sensei, London, group show, 2016 – New York Studio School, alumni show, curated by Leslie Heller Workspace, 2016 He is a trustee of the Vermont Studio Center, where he was board chair for 7 years, and a trustee of the Katonah Museum of Art. Previously a corporate lawyer in NYC, he has degrees from Yale and Harvard Law School.


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This catalogue was published to accompany the Whit Conrad Spring Exhibition at The Lionheart Gallery. Playing What’s Not There May 6 – July 2, 2017 Edition of 60 All images copyright of the artist. Images of the works are reproduced courtesy of the artist and The Lionheart Gallery. Curated by Susan Grissom Designed by Erin Manion Essay by Lucas Farrell All rights reserved. No part of this book may be produced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior permission in writing of the copyright holder and The Lionheart Gallery.

www.thelionheartgallery.com 914 764 8689 27 Westchester Avenue, Pound Ridge, NY 10576


PLAYING WHAT’S NOT THERE

Playing What's Not There Catalog  

Featuring new works by Whit Conrad from his series Playing What's Not There, on view at The Lionheart Gallery May 6 – July 2, 2017.

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