In recent years Robin Winters has concentrated on making portraits in a wide array of media including drawing, painting, ceramic, bronze, and blown glass. Several hundred of these heads will comprise most of his exhibition at The Society: arranged in rings on the floor, elevated on pedestals, pinned to the walls, and lined up on bleachers and shelves. The portraits are loosely based on Winters's friends, himself, mythical or literary characters and art history; many are adorned with hats or have strange protrusions coming out of them like antlers or thoughts, giving each a distinct attitude of whimsy, contemplation, mischief, or sadness. The character of each head is so profound as to seem strangely familiar, not because we recognize its face but because we recognize something more basic about it, something intuitive, soulful, spiritual.
Art critic Holland Cotter keenly characterized Winters's artistic activity in a review in Art in America in 1986: "Although he is still a young man, Robin Winters has clocked up an impressive amount of active duty in the art world since his first California show in 1973. At heart a Conceptualist, he has explored so many forms (performance art, video, sculpture, books and painting among them) and bolted from so many commercial camps (he shows often but rarely in the same place twice) that you begin to suspect that it's all an elaborate tease to keep us wondering what he will do next and where. Fortunately, Winters's guessing game rewards patience: in it artist and art are of a piece, and the approach/avoidance, sniper-action strategy that has defined his career is also the crucial substance of his work."
As he once remarked, "My dialogue is not necessarily to make the next addition to the art meta-program. I mean I'm a hopeless romantic in that I'm trying to make art out of real feelings, it isn't just about what I think about Picasso or Duchamp as much as how I feel when I wake up."
Winters's work, then, is rooted in the impulse of making art, tempered (but not stifled) by an intellectual awareness of where art is shown, what it means, and who it is for. His regular changing of venues and working methods, his love of work but avoidance of technical "mastery" (and to some extent "success") has allowed his motivation to come to the fore. If Winters's work is about anything it is the need to make art, and the belief that if one never stops thinking, playing and working some sort of magic will occur. Winters is an artist because art is vital, and his constant process of change only makes being an artist all the more rejuvenating and intense. It is this necessity, this vitality, that Winters communicates in his work, and that he hopes to share first hand in the course of his residency in the gallery.
Author: Joe Scanlan
Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art – Ridgefield, CT
Boymans-van Beuningen Museum – Rotterdam, the Netherlands
Brooklyn Museum of Art – New York, NY
Centraal Museum – Utrecht, the Netherlands
Groningen Museum – Groningen, the Netherlands
List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Cambridge, MA
MacArthur Foundation – Chicago, IL
Rijksmuseum Kröller-Müller – Otterlo, the Netherlands
Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art – New York, NY
Museum Van Hedendaagse Kunst – Ghent, Belgium
The New Museum – New York, NY
Philadelphia Museum of Art – Philadelphia, PA
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – San Francisco, CA
Smithsonian Museum – Washington, D.C.
“Sol Lewitt Collection”, Wadsworth Atheneum – Hartford, CT
Stedelijk Museum – Amsterdam, the Netherlands
The Arts Club – Chicago, IL
The Kitchen – New York, NY
University Art Museum – Berkeley, CA
Val Saint Lambert Crystal Fabric – Liege, Belgium
Whitney Museum of American Art – New York, NY
Williams College Museum of Art – Williamstown, MA