Terry Winters: Schema

Close up image of a watercolor, gouache, and graphite print

Terry Winters, Schema (55), (1985-86)Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on paper, 12 1/8 x 8 5/8" (30.7 x 21.9 cm). Image courtesy of MoMA, © 2022 Terry Winters.

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Terry Winters
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Terry Winters’ 75 drawings that comprise Schema seem based in part on existing images of natural phenomena–animal, vegetable, or mineral–and in part on some fabricated stuff of the imagination. There is a constant tension in these works between the actual, or the scientific, and the “stuff” of art, or the imagination.

Winters’ motifs are derived from diagrams, natural matter, and science. These images are then reformed—redrawn, repainted, rescaled—and forcefully artificialized by the artist. Their actual source is not important; however, the sense that there is a source of some sort is crucial. Elemental and primal in feeling—without being universal—Winters’ forms evoke diverse bodily functions of organisms of all kinds, from simple cell division to human sexual intercourse. His motifs suggest cellular aggregates (both spherical and linear), cross sections, successive stages of embryonic development, or emergent crystal formations.

In Schema Winters presents a multiplicity of motifs and surface treatments. These are the first drawings Winters has made that are as physically complicated as his paintings. They are also his first to embrace color extensively, although many of them continue his long-term involvement with the disparate tonalities of black. “All images are actual size,” the artist has written, announcing their ultimate autonomy. But the drawings also speak of a complex interdependence of the “natural world.”