Terry Winters

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Terry Winters, New York City, September 2001
Terry Winters, Dumb Compass, 1985, oil on linen, 94 x 132 inches
Terry Winters, Color and Information, 1998, oil and alkyd resin on canvas, 108 x 144 inches

Terry Winters (born 1949 Brooklyn, New York) is an American painter, draftsman, and printmaker, whose work reintroduced figuration in a way that was consonant with the Modernist legacy. Klaus Kertess wrote that “in the mid 1970s, Terry Winters and such peers as Carroll Dunham, Bill Jensen, and Stephen Mueller began to feel increasingly constricted by painting’s and drawing’s phenomenological order and orders. How to reintegrate more variegated mark making and spatiality, how to give body not just to process but to metaphor, without sacrificing the hard-won physicality and non-narrative abstractness so crucial to late Modernism—all of these became overriding concerns.”[1] His work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, including major retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is found in the collections of numerous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and others. He is represented by the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York.


After graduating from the Pratt Institute in 1971, he painted for ten years, not once exhibiting his work. It was only in 1982 that he had his first solo exhibition at the Sonnabend Gallery, showing his work as a fully mature artist.

While the sources of Winters’ subject matter can be traced to the natural sciences, architecture, and more recently, information systems and computer graphics, what his actual canvases depict remains obscure yet rational, mysterious yet palpable. His paintings from the 1980s have their antecedents in the work of Arshile Gorky and the early biomorphic works of Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Ruth Asawa. And the scarred, fuliginous, tactile grounds out of which the primordial organisms and personages of Dumb Compass (1985) emerge find their inspiration in the monochrome canvases of Brice Marden, one the artist’s greatest influences. Lisa Phillips wrote that Winters’ biomorphic paintings “eschewed the hyperbole of much so-called Neo-expressionism and the cool mechanical approach of favored by the Neo-Conceptualists. He is something of an anomaly.”[2]

By the mid-nineties, Winters’ work would assume an altogether different tenor. Grids and tesselated patterns of colored shapes began to enter into his paintings. There was also a gradual transition from the landscape or figures in or on a field format in the organic paintings to the all-over composition of works like ‘’Color and Information’’ (1998); its layered, churning grids of color conflate the slow deliberate process of painting with the torrent of pixels that make up so much of the imagery in the digital age.

In an interview in The Brooklyn Rail, Winters says of his later paintings: "… they’re somehow the consequence of function, of being used over time. The paintings are a track of the time that it took to paint them—what’s left after the activity of having painted them. On some level, they’re a temporal architecture or cross-section. In a way, I want the opposite of a breakdown. My approach uses construction to provoke unpredictable, surprising images that emerge and become recognizable."[3]

Winters is a highly regarded draftsman and printmaker. His graphic work has been the subject of many important exhibitions. For a symposium at the Drawing Center in New York, Winters issued a statement concerning the significance of drawing to him: “Drawing is central to my work—everything moves out, in all directions, from drawing…Drawing is a prototype—the first time an image is seen. My approach is diagrammatic—each image becomes a superimposition of maps. Objects and information are transcribed as events; pieces of existing data are re-assembled into new patterns…Formed by impulses, drawing is used as an operative abstraction for the construction of pictures.”[4]


  • Winters, Terry. Ocular Proofs. New York: Dome Editions, 1995.
  • Winters, Terry. Terry Winters: Computation of Chains. New York: Matthew Marks Gallery, 1997.
  • Winters, Terry. Graphic Primitives. New York: Matthew Marks Gallery, 1999.
  • Winters, Terry. Terry Winters: Drawings. New York: Matthew Marks Gallery, 2001.
  • Winters, Terry. Terry Winters: Drawings. Munich: Staatliche Graphische Sammlung München, 2004.
  • Winters, Terry. Terry Winters: 1981–1986. New York: Matthew Marks Gallery, 2004.
  • Winters, Terry. Terry Winters: Prints & Sequences. Waterville, Maine: Colby College Museum of Art, 2006.
  • Winters, Terry. Filters in Stock. New York: 38th Street Publishers, 2009.


  1. ^ Klaus Kertess, “Drawing Desires,” in Lisa Phillips, Terry Winters, (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1991).
  2. ^ Lisa Phillips, “The Self Similar,” in Terry Winters, 1991.
  3. ^ Bui, Phong; David Levi Strauss and Peter Lamborn Wilson (January 2009). "In Conversation: Terry Winters with Phong Bui, David Levi Strauss, and Peter Lamborn Wilson". The Brooklyn Rail. 
  4. ^ Terry Winters, Statement for the Symposium ‘Drawing (as) Center,’ October 12, 2002, the Drawing Center, New York.

Further reading[edit]

  • Phillips, Lisa. Terry Winters. New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1991.
  • Weinberg, Adam. Terry Winters: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, 1994-2004. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004.

External links[edit]