Intriguing Artistic Eyes Spotted at the New York Studio School Alumni Exhibition .Forbes Magazine, July 2017.

Whit Conrad
Douglas Clement
Wall Street International Magazine, May 2017
Wall Street International Magazine

Whit Conrad at the Lionheart Gallery
Blouin Art Info, May 2017

The Whimsical, Witty Paintings of Whit Conrad
Artsy, March 2015
The Whimsical, Witty Paintings of Whit Conrad, Artsy, 2015


Playing What's Not There

By Lucas Farrell

In an interview,Miles Davis once famously quipped: “Don’t play what’s there, play what’s notthere.” In this new collection of vivid, playful, and idiosyncratic paintings,Whit Conrad has applied the jazz legend’s advice to his own work with signaturegusto. While Conrad’s paintings often begin in a recognizable setting, soundingfamiliar notes in the viewer – a jazz club (“Jazzed Up”), a birthday party(“Birthday Party”), a polling place (“Electors”), a gathering around a dinnertable (“Comanche Diptych”)– they always journey into those liminal zones between notes.According to Miles Davis, that is where the music lives. According to Conrad, sotoo the imagination: “Whatever its origin, the image becomes my companion in thejourney through my imagination and the demands of the medium. Without a map andwithout direction, we are free to wander recklessly. Eventually, the paintingitself takes over as guide,steering us toward some unexpected destination.”

Highlighting the show is Conrad’spainting “Jazzed Up”. While a familiar pictorial scene is established (a jazz club), we are quicklyled to animprovised world, where deeply felt elements of the experience—forinstance,the musician’s hands pounding the keys furiously—suddenly proliferatelike flowersblooming in time-lapse. Not surprisingly, the tempo upticks, andthe canvasmoves and sways. Reminiscent of a George Grosz tableau, the vividdécor takeson a life and direction(s) of its own, and suddenly severalnarratives presentthemselves, beckoning further inquiry.

If there was a subtitle to theshow, it might very well be “Comeas You Are,” or the title of another painting in the exhibit, in which fourcostumed characters gather around an otherwiseunornamented table. Are these charactersin costume, or are they dressedprecisely as themselves? Either way, thepainting – like the show itself – is an invitation to a kind of come-as-you-arerevelry of the mind. “Playing What’sNot There” requires faith and anadventurous spirit. Each painting leads us toa newly imagined place -- where wemight delight in the local color, and engagethe cast of eclectic charactersthat call it home. Forget your map and compass;the point is getting lost.There’s much to be discovered in the Not There. 


By Lucas Farrell

The night I married his daughter—late July, 2010—Whit stood upin front of all our friends and respective families and said: “Whereas beforeit was very likely that, as an artist and poet, Louisa and Luke were going tomake very little money in life. Now, as goat farmers, its quite likely they’regoing to LOSE a lot of money.” Later in the evening, when it was my turn todeliver a toast, I justified our newlywed pursuits by paraphrasing a letterJohn Adams wrote in 1776 to his wife, Abigail; in which it is stated that he—aserious and respectable gentleman (like my newly acquired father-in-law!)—had“committed his life to the study of [law and] politics and war so as to affordhis children the luxury of studying painting and poetry… [and goat farming].”In other words, who were we to mess with Human Evolution and/or the NaturalRhythm and Greater Cycle of Things?

Of course, the irony was that, by that point in time, Whit hadalready retired from his high-powered and respectable NYC corporateattorneying, and was himself newly and deeply afflicted with the bug of Paint& Canvas. Which is also to say that he was discovering just how painfullyfun the so-called “luxury” of painting was turning out to be! (A fact I wasderiving great pleasure from, mind you.) What surprised me most, though, wasnot that he was painting with such tenacity; but rather that his paintings werevery good.

You see, it should be known, for the record, that Whit has beencreating a lower-cased version of “art by Whit” for as long as anyone canrecall; certainly for as long as I have known him. Since the beginning of timethe Conrad clan has summered in the unlikely spot of rural-nowhere, northernOntario. Somehow I’ve managed to squeeze into the car with them these past 10summers.  Oddly enough, over that periodof time, I have been (and continueto be) introduced one-by-one to some new and bewildering Whit “creation.” Firstit was the tiny, hand-whittled-then-painted collection of “Fish by Whit.”Followed by the menacing menagerie of similarly fashioned “Snakes by Whit.” Inthe bathroom of the cabin I was often relegated to along the lake’s edge lived:“Toilet Roll Holder by Whit” and “Towel Rack by Whit.” There are several ratherunsettling “Totem Poles Endowed-With-Oversized-Penises By Whit” that haunt thewoods and preside in native-godly fashion over the requisite “Fire Pit ByWhit.” One of my all time favorites: “Little-Man-Licks-The-Big-Man by Whit”—anold carved out stump now thieved irrevocably from dignity.

In sum, “art by Whit” has long littered his family’s landscape.We have grown accustomed to these (at once casual, silly, mysterious andmischievous) symptoms of Whit’s inner strangeness; symptoms of a growing afflictionthat, over the years, has threatened to overcome all of our vocabularies (evennow, the morning of Valentine’s Day, it’s requiring all of my strength not todote on my lovely wife as, simply, “Daughter By Whit”). 

And so it is with a great deal of pride and no small amount ofrelief that this day this wonderful day, the 7th of March in the year 2015,“Art by Whit” has moved conclusively from the private into the public sphere,and marks I think a full-on transformation of the man as artist. The poet TedBerrigan once said that in the same way every bird must sing, we humans mustexpress ourselves: “If you don’t express yourself—that is, who you are—in oneor more of the many art forms that exist in the human sphere: you’re a partlycrippled individual.” I think this statement holds particularly true for Whit.In the past several years, painting has become the form Whit’sneeding-to-express-himself has taken– it has become, it seems, as necessary asair; as necessary as breathing.

The collection of paintings in this show represents Whit’s widerange of styles and subjects and moods—it may well be the first show extensiveenough to do it sufficiently and properly. From showcasing the uncanny elementsof the grotesque (think: the ‘Demons’ of James Ensor), to the many deft andlaugh-provoking social-satirical impressions and irreverences, to the vastarray of fantastical landscapes and figures whose forms seem always to burst atthe seams in a kind of vivid and graceful ecstasy—there is much in this collectionto admire.

And yet I find that myfavorites are those of the animals. And in particular, my animals. The Silkie,the Maremmas, the Goats: portraits in which a genuine and enviable sense ofplay becomes palpable. I find them extraordinarily well tended to—not just bythe artist, but also by the farmers behind the artist. They pulse on thewalls most impressively; they share a sense of calm and contagious jubilance. Ifind that viewing them always provokes in me a satisfactory little chuckle,followed by a kind of re-centering: some invisible release that allows me tobreathe a little easier.

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