EXHIBIT: Break The Mold (Ward solo May-July 2012)

The art gallery at the New York Mercantile Exchange in lower Manhattan will host "Break The Mold," a solo by mixed-media abstract painter Terry Ward. Ward's art is in the collections of two Nobel Peace Prize winners –Al Gore and Jimmy Carter– and in the estate collection of famed artist Cy Twombly. Two Ward panels are in ongoing display in the selective permanent art collection of the Carter Center.

The artist will give a public gallery talk at the NYMEX exhibit area at 5pm on Wednesday May 23 –already a festive day at the riverside site since the tall ships of Operation Sail are scheduled to parade up the Hudson for the first time in a dozen years. The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) at 1 North End Ave is on the waterfront and neighbors the North Cove Marina, the NY Waterways WFC ferry terminal, and Rockefeller Park –places popular among the expected sailwatchers. The site is in the shadow of the One World Trade Center construction –which became the City’s tallest building in early May.

Under the post-9/11 security measures at this landmark national site in the World Financial Center / WTC area, guards will request I.D. from visitors and the May 23 gallery talk will be the only time the exhibit will be open to non-NYMEX members.

The show title, “Break The Mold”, comes in part from Ward's disavowal of certain conventional notions about art –like the expectation that paintings should have any sort of a "top" or "bottom". Ward designs (and wires) the art to hang at any angle.

Most post-2007 Ward art is made in series-groups of same-sized panels. Usually there are four similar panels –sometimes just two, sometimes up to twelve. Ward considers each panel to be a unique piece capable of being hung and sold on its own. However, Ward also considers all such paintings "equal" to and interchangeable with each other –therefore the artist approves of mixing together panels from different groups to create new meanings. Whether influenced by the YouTube era of user-generated content or by the older "Relational Aesthetics" concept (in which visitor reactions and participation are part of the art experience), Ward usually embraces the potential for staff or –at some venues– even visitors to reposition or invert some of the art in mid-exhibit. The mixes and art "mash-ups" generate new possibilities, perhaps at the hands of people other than the artist. In theory, all Ward art could mix in a 500-foot super mash-up. The modular-mash-up mixable feature of Ward's art seems to be new to painting.

Ward seldom paints pictures of recognizable subjects. Rather, in the tradition of so much modern art, the pictures are mostly "about" the paint, shapes, colors, and the viewer's reactions to them. The artist gave some series groups optional descriptive nicknames (like Chemo or There Was A Thread), but overall the intent is for viewers to form their own responses.
Collage, objects, and fragments of realistic paintings might be stuck onto the surfaces. Ward sometimes also adds pieces of edgy non-realistic imagery by other contemporary artists like Rirkrit Tiravanija or Félix González-Torres.

The artist believes that big art (each Ward panel measures six-and-a-half feet by one foot) should also reward viewers who approach closely, so occasional tiny details appear: bits of toys, snips of text, or fingernail-sized illustrations cut from origami-folding instructions. Paint-application ranges from thin washes and inky stains to heavily-textured inch-thick crusts. Some panels have unusual marbleized areas formed by repeated cycles of adding dripwork and then standing the rigid panels up on-end at various angles. Spraypaint, stencilwork, and smoke marks obscure some sections.

Ward developed a new painting technique called ExPaint in 2011. The strange effect can give the appearance of having made dripwork with some sort of special multicolored, marbleized, collaged paint. First, a surface is painted/ collaged/ written-upon or otherwise marked –Layer One. Next, dripwork of thick and slow-drying paint is applied –Layer Two. Then, the whole is covered with fast-drying paint –Layer Three. When Layer Three is dry but Layer Two is not-yet dry, Layer Two (the dripwork) is removed. The result is a surface with Layer Three as the background and with –apparently– dripwork shapes in the foreground which have the colors and effects of Layer One. Viewers see not the Layer Two dripwork, but instead the "ghost" shapes of where it had been.

The artist blogs as GrumpyVisualArtist through GrumpyVisualArtist.BlogSpot.com

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More WARD ART here.

Exhibit views.

Unusual art processes.

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