Of This World: Tom Green at Curator’s Office

“Time is of the essence now.” Most of us will never fully grasp the weight of Tom Green’s words when he spoke to the Washington Post last December. He’d been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) six months earlier and was aware that at some point, possibly soon, he’d lose his ability to paint, robbed of his motor skills by this neurological disease. The news of the  urgent diagnosis, however, although paramount and ultimate, is but a blip in the long trajectory of the artist’s career in Washington, D.C., a career that also included stops at the Whitney Biennial in 1975 and the Guggenheim in 1981. Opening earlier this month, Of This World at Curators Office features Green’s latest works on paper. They’re also his final paintings, restrained and elegant reinterpretations of his longstanding pictorial engagement with semiotics. More after the jump. -Matthew Smith, Washington, D.C. contributor.

Tom Green | Of This World 3, 2011 acrylic on paper 29.75” x 22.25”, courtesy Curator’s Office

It’s not difficult to draw parallels between the career of Tom Green and that of the late Simon Gouverneur (1934 - 1990), another longtime D.C. painter and beloved university professor. Like Gouverneur, Green attained early success outside of D.C. -- the Whitney Biennial and the Guggenheim would qualify as grand success -- but has remained infinitely more esteemed and exhibited locally, perhaps because his career peaked decades before the advent of our click-to-share Tumblrverse.  Also like Gouverneur,  who was recently written up extensively by John Yau for Hyperallergic, Green’s work touches upon the mysticism of hieroglyphic symbols, primal vehicles of meaning even when the meaning is abstracted.

The title of Tom Green’s retrospective at the American University Katzen Arts Center in 2010 was Accident and Intent, in reference to Green’s approaches to mark making.  His latest works at Curator’s Office fall firmly in the latter camp, calculated and hard edged and deeply committed to color. He’s revisiting much of the visual language he developed over the past forty years, but doing so within stricter parameters -- seemingly hard rules dictate dimensions, form, and color. It’s as if to say that in the face of much uncertainty the artist remains firmly, faithfully in control.

Tom Green | Of This World 7, 2011 acrylic on paper 29.75” x 22.25”, courtesy Curator’s Office

Tom Green | Of This World 4, 2011 acrylic on paper 29.75” x 22.25” , courtesy Curator’s Office

Tom Green | Of This World 6, 2011 acrylic on paper 29.75” x 22.25”, courtesy Curator’s Office

Born in Newark, N.J. in 1942, Tom Green grew up in the Washington, D.C. area. After earning a B.A. and a M.A. in Painting at the University of Maryland, Green went on to teach for forty years at the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C. and where he is presently a Professor Emeritus of Fine Art. Tom Green has exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions in the United States and abroad. These include the 1975 Whitney Biennial, Nineteen Americans at the Guggenheim Museum, the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, The Kreeger Museum, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Recent solo exhibitions include: Tom Green: Accident & Intent at the Katzen Center for the Arts, American University Museum; Point of View at Civilian Art Projects, and Inventory at George Mason University. Green has received two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award, and residency fellowships at the Vermont Studio Center and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.

Matthew Smith is a writer and artist in Washington, D.C.


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