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Thomas Woodruff in Conversation | Why Paint Pictures?


Why Paint Pictures?

Thomas Woodruff in conversation with

Trey Abdella
TM Davy
Suzanne Joelson
Trevor Winkfield

Thursday, March 21, 2024
6:30 pm

Vito Schnabel Gallery
455 West 19th Street
New York, NY

Thomas Woodruff: The Dinosaur Variations (February 9 - March 30, 2024) features a series that the artist began in 2020 during the pandemic lockdown. Working in isolation in his Hudson Valley studio, he began to compulsively draw dinosaurs, viewing them as compelling avatars of both pathos and melancholy well-suited to such a challenging moment. Despite Woodruff’s meticulous rendering of his dinosaur subjects, the resulting paintings push against the expectations of “paleoart” and other forms of natural history illustration, casting the dinosaurs as the dramatis personae of an apocalyptic production, rather than paleontological specimens. Woodruff sets these anthropomorphized creatures within stage-like environments, adorned with bursts of intricate flora, gleaming rainbows, and flaming orbs streaking across the sky. These elements draw upon inspiration from a wide range of art-historical and theatrical touchstones; from the luminous textures of Titian, to the mystical landscapes of the German Romantic painter, Philipp Otto Runge, to the extravagant violence of Edo period ukiyo-e master Yoshitoshi, as well as the canons of classical ballet and grand opera.  


Trey Abdella’s category-defying work bridges the mediums of painting, sculpture, and assemblage. In his work, Abdella explores American culture and its collision of the familiar and the uncanny, the humorous and the unsettling. A sly storyteller, Abdella cultivates a relatable nostalgia in his works, drawing upon life’s wholesome trivialities and mundane aspects, electrifying them with a heightened sense of drama and dread. Abdella received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York and his MFA from the New York Academy of Art. Abdella lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

TM Davy is best known for his figurative paintings and pastels rendered in a luminous reality. Davy paints with light and shadow, centering relationships of love and self-realization. He often depicts the subjects of his work in intimate interactions, allowing the viewer to participate in moments of uncanny engagement. Davy's painting style is a virtuosic layering of radiant color and symbolic illusions of form. Believing that all of art history is the ground for a present understanding, Davy's practice connects with mystery, metaphor, and the metaphysical. For Davy, painting finds roots in a broader tradition of meditative corporal experience. His work often integrates breath-work, song, and experimental performance as extensions of his paintings. Davy graduated with a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York, where he now teaches. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Suzanne Joelson graduated from Bennington College and went on to work in theater and dance. She toured with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and was in charge of scenery and costumes, working on sets with Graves, Johns, and Rauschenberg. A show at the Drawing Center led to a job teaching at RISD, then Bard, then Columbia, and now exclusively at the School of Visual Arts. Joelson’s writing has appeared in Bomb, Art Critical, and Two Coats of Paint. Her work has been reviewed in Artforum and Art in America. Joelson has received awards from the American Academy, the National Academy, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Tiffany Foundation. A portfolio of her under_GROUND paintings will be in Issue #35 of Dear Dave Magazine.

Trevor Winkfield moved from London to New York in 1969 and has lived there ever since, exhibiting his paintings at Tibor de Nagy Gallery. He has made many collaborative books with writers and poets, including John Ashbery, Ron Padgett, John Yau, and Charles North. His selected art writings — Georges Braque & Others — was published in 2014 by The Song Cave. The same year, his long interview with Miles Champion was published by Pressed Wafer under the title How I Became A Painter.

Thomas Woodruff is an American artist who is best known for his imaginative and intricately detailed paintings. He usually works in a series, creating complex narrative threads that run throughout his body of work. Hatched from personal experiences, his past projects are often apotropaic in nature, and have explored issues raised by the AIDS epidemic, the aspects of maintaining wellness, sexual identity, dealing with loss, and the celebration of the outsider in all of us. The imagery is cross-culturally hybridized, illusionistic, technically tricky, lushly hued, and perversely ornate. Woodruff attended The Cooper Union and the Skowhegan School. He has worked as an artist, illustrator, set and costume designer, cartoonist, and tattooist. He taught at Bard College, as well as the School of Visual Arts, where he is a Chair Emeritus. He lives in New York City and the Hudson Valley.