It's not every day that you get the opportunity to stand in front of a painting and have an artist ask you to interpret it for yourself. That is how my studio visit started with Stan Wenocur.
Wenocur"s current show, Fabrications, opened on April 2 at the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center. The show features 22 of the artist's work as a retrospective of his mixed media paintings. Wenocur has created a large studio space for himself within his home in Columbia, MD, a space that lends well to the unplanned and raw processof his large-scale works on canvas and wood. During our visit, Wenocur walked me though a dozen of the pieces that were selected for Fabrications by curator, fellow artist, and mentor, Steven Cushner. Wenocur was accepted to show at the Delaplaine roughly two years ago and over the last two years has been modifying and carefully creating pieces that would represent the vast portfolio of his work and what he believes to be its core: fabric.
As we traveled though time and space within his studio, previewing the works to be featured in Fabrications, it became more apparent just how much each of his pieces was a labor of love. Each piece, although unplanned in its composition and completion, was meticulously and painstakingly executed. Each piece of fabric would act as the starting point, was selected because of the pattern or texture, its quality that would come to life in the final work. Wenocur describes right away that his work really is about the material, how you can really feel the layers on the canvas, touch the texture and see the patterns. The physical connection to his work is important.
After some discussion, on subject matter and how his lack of planning in the composition of pieces leads to the beautiful chaos of his work, he pulls out what is by far my favorite piece. "Mourning Light" is quiet in comparison and when you see it, you are immediately confronted with the idea that there is something deeper to it, somewhing that is missing from some of his other pieces. The vast majority of his work depicts what Wenocur refers to as abstract landscapes, but "Mourning Light" is just glowing with subtle texture and uses whites and yellows, as opposed to his usual dark, bold palette. The composition flows from one side of the canvas to the other, as if floating down the canvas. What further sets the piece apart is that it is the first piece that Wenocur admits came from a place of emotion. Created after a death in the family, Wenocur says that for him the work reflects that "out of darkness, comes light", a notion that really caused me to spend some time with the piece.
As we continued through the collection, it became clear that more of Wenocur's works were tied to emotion. Not every piece was tied to an emotional event, but Wenocur pours a feeling, thought, or memory into each piece. Each of his pieces is a balance of the underlying emotion and the fabric that builds his compositions. They are battles between material, color, texture, and the subconscious connection he is having to what is evolving in the world around him. Together the works are the "Fabrications"of Wenocur's lengthy career.
Elizabeth Carberry, Reviewer: EAST CITY ART (not printed)
"We usually see abstraction as opposed to figure painting. STANLEY WENOCUR shows their affinities, which are first of all matters of pictorial form. In his abstract paintings, elegantly irregular planes fill the surface. Each plane has its distinct relationship to that surface, and each finds a subtle, nuanced fit with the shapes that surround it. Unity emerges from disparity, and thus one of the goals of art - an image of harmony- is achieved. Cheerful or somber, color flows through the structure of a painting, carrying its harmonies to further refinements. The transition from abstraction to figuration is smoothest if one lets these chromatic currents carry one to a sense of the somber joy that pervades all of Wenocur’s paintings. At least in part, this is the artist’s joy in his powers of articulation, which sometimes produce arrangements of line, plane, and color that we recognize as a nude figure. Wenocur’s abstractions display the formal premises of his art, while his figures show the intensely human significance of formal inventions that, at first glance, might seem to have a purely pictorial meaning.”
*Carter Ratcliffe is a poet and art critic living in New York, He is currently a contributing editor of ART IN AMERICA, SCULPTURE, AND ART ON PAPER. Ratcliffe’s writings have appeared widely in European and American journals and in the publications of museums here and abroad, including the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the Guggenheim, NY, and the Royal Academy, London.
Critic: C.M. Dupre* (April 2003)
"Stanley Wenocur’s paintings are celebrations of a rare form of sensuality: rare because the intent to seduce is seldom so successful, so strangely consecrated. In part, this is because the nude image has a tendency to disarticulate in a state of suspension …. We roam over surfaces, stop in the seams, hover over specks and stains, begin again at disquieting folds. Wenocur has interwoven the basic ingredients of creative acts: the ’real’, the ’symbol’, the ’imaginary’. Most nudes are private but his include the viewer assiduously, as if each canvas has constructed a medium more intimate than a stage. Wenocur’s nudes and hanging figures are entries into a chartable, locatable, traversable place, but they are also nudes and figures related to the depths of pain and loss that live in the vast places of endurance."
*C.M. Dupre is a painter and writer living in Virginia, as well as a teacher of philosophy, studio art, and art theory courses. She has lectured about art at various institutions and has curated exhibitions. She has had numerous solo exhibitions, and she has published many articles, editorials, criticisms, and essays.