It wasn’t long ago that Ian Whitmore was selling out multiple shows in Washington, D.C. before his paintings were even hung for opening night. It may have been a sign of the times — those shows at the now-defunct Fusebox gallery in the mid 00s were smack dab in the middle of the so-called great contemporary art bubble. But it was also a testament to Whitmore’s virtuosity, the right combination of bravura and painterly intellect that had just about every arts writer in town gushing, including younger incarnations of Tyler Green and Blake Gopnik.
So it wasn’t entirely surprising that Whitmore ultimately sought to broaden his artistic experiences in New York, leaving D.C. a few months before the opening of his 2009 show at G Fine Art. The news was noteworthy enough that Gopnik wrote about it for the Post, detailing the potential rewards and pitfalls of such a move. And now, three years later, the former Washingtonian returns to G Fine Art with his third solo show at the gallery, A Devil, a Shadow, the Notice of a Small Falling Leaf. The exhibition is made up entirely of paintings Whitmore composed after his departure, perhaps hinting at what’s occupied his mind since leaving D.C. behind.
There’s nothing linear about Whitmore’s paintings — they play with our sense of otherness, teetering between the familiar and the uncanny. It’s become his signature style, a balancing act that Whitmore pursues through form and materials. In his earlier work this otherness came from the frothy, allover gestural marks that Whitmore painted over his Rococo pastiches, resulting in figurative representations where drips and splatters became part of the landscape. These style juxtapositions are less prominent this time around, though they do make the occasional cameo.
More common in the current show is the otherness that Whitmore attains through truncated narratives. The wordy title of the exhibition is in reference to a quote by sixteenth century German theologian Andreas Karlstadt and it’s relationship to the body of work is not entirely clear, though it may not be intended to be. Similarly, Whitmore’s paintings here aren’t meant to be a unified series, and like the name of the show, they present truncated meanings and explanations that trail off mid sentence. In this regard, though perhaps more subtle in color and form, Whitmore remains as non-linear as ever.
Ian Whitmore was born in Ann Arbor, MI. He received his BA from George Washington University. Whitmore showed at Fusebox., and moved to Brooklyn in 2008. His work is included in many private collections and in the Collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.