Davidson Gallery is pleased to present Centerpiece, a solo exhibition of new work by Thomas Witte. Thomas Witte is an American contemporary artist who currently lives and works in New Jersey. Witte works almost exclusively with cut paper as his primary medium and a scalpel as his main tool. Though perhaps best known for using a dichromatic pallet of pristine white paper and a contrasting color, Witte has created six paintings – this time in full color – for his third solo exhibition at Davidson Gallery. Each painting was made between 2020–2021, a time that will be remembered for the many permanent changes society has undergone in light of the ongoing global pandemic.
Nostalgia is fundamental to Witte’s work and, at a time when free movement, travel, and human interaction became legally limited, the subjects of his recent paintings become even more pertinent during newly imposed restrictions. Not only are the images Witte depicts evocative of past memories, but their very creation is borne from them. The starting point is always based upon 35mm slide photographs, which Witte collects in the thousands. The source material and process of making the paintings are not necessarily important to the reading of the finished works, but as the paintings themselves are so deliberate, scrupulous, and time intensive, it is impossible to ignore; the opposite of the snapshot on which they’re based.
The arrangement and subject matter of the works are formed as Witte draws the details in, then removes the images as paper-cut collages, or adds them as decoupage. Each constituent component is an abstract which, when orchestrated together, forms far more than the sum of its parts.
The delicate and fragile paintings as objects were entirely made by hand. The artist carefully tinted sheets of lightweight gossamer like paper – acid free tissue paper that is chosen for its delicate and translucent quality – with watercolor washes of solid, single blocked, permanent color. Witte then hand cuts these sheets with his preferred Japanese scalpel and builds them up as layers of color. With the most modest and basic of medium – paper and color wash – Witte assembles a highly varied texture of detail, contrast, and tone. The colors and character evoke an atmosphere and impression of a particular time and place, along with the unchanging presence of the camera's cropping lens and the artist’s editorial eye.
Centerpiece includes scenes of arranged, cut flowers as a recurring device, with the hint of activity going on, always just or partially out of frame. They leave the subject matter open to interpretation by the viewer in any context, Meanwhile the still-life motif resonates through art history, having been used to imply all forms of basic human emotions. The use of the familiar trope with the intimation of life going on around it, recontextualizes the use of artistic subjects. The Centerpiece is both the silent focus and the rebus, rife with meaning
The new body of work presented in this exhibition clearly demonstrates a commitment to concept, form, and process by Witte, taking into account the long traditions of paper and painting, and is an important milestone in the artist’s oeuvre.