Freshly retired from his day job as a successful Harvard and Yale-educated lawyer, Whit Conrad began to take classes at the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture; what started out as a lark became a passion. His exploration has led to “Paintings by Whit Conrad,” an exhibition at The Lionheart Gallery in Pound Ridge, New York, and curated by gallery director Susan Grissom. Conrad’s experienced perspective and playful wit shine through in subjects ranging from animals to portraits executed in a style that recalls elements of works by Basquiat and Picasso.
Following his experience with the New York Studio School’s atelier method of art education, Conrad has developed a practice of drawing and painting that is taken from life and then enhanced through creative expression. He uses a range of painting techniques, often ink and acrylics on linen or oil on linen. Conrad’s satirical, vibrant, semi-realism plays out stories mined from the everyday, art history, or memory. The artist explains that although his work takes inspiration from the real world, “eventually, the painting itself takes over as guide, steering us toward some unexpected destination.”
Certain works of Conrad’s stand alone in describing real-life scenes, such as the Puttin’ on a Face (2011), in which women get ready for an unknown occasion, or Morning After (2013), which seems to show the sickly rebound from such an occasion. Other pieces are part of larger series of such as his “Comanche Dinner” series, whimsical accounts of fishing culture, and studies of families of goats. Others appear to be self-deprecating self-portraits, such as Artist Dilemma II (2015), Self Portrait (2014), and Bad Week (2013).
Conrad has an innate sense of color, and an ability to set a unified and distinct tone that is intrinsically linked to his subject. This tone strengthens as his works become more abstract, and as a result his artistic voice becomes more pronounced. Although he got his start as an artist later in life, Conrad’s body of work reflects a clear vision, imagination, and devotion to his practice.
“Paintings by Whit Conrad” is on view at The Lionheart Gallery, Pound Ridge, Mar. 7–Apr. 26, 2015.
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory