Dorrance Special Exhibition Galleries, First Floor
This exhibition will explore the art of one of the premier abstract painters to work in Philadelphia in the twentieth century, bringing together a selection of approximately 30 exemplary paintings from the years 1972–1993. Warren Rohrer: Paintings 1972–1993 will be the first museum presentation of the artist’s work.
The exhibition begins with Rohrer’s paintings of the early 1970s, when he first adopted the grid as the underlying framework for his work, and first made the imaginative connection between the culture of farming and the techniques of painting—a link that resonated in his mature work. In the early 1980s the grid-based substructure that he developed for these works gave way to a vividly colored and richly layered approach, and the work became increasingly luminous.
A ninth generation American, Warren Rohrer was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1927. Raised within the Mennonite community, he flouted familial expectation that he would be a farmer and minister and became a painter. Following his graduation from Eastern Mennonite College in 1950, Rohrer studied art during summers at Pennsylvania State University and began painting out of doors. In 1960 he moved to a farm in Christiana, Pennsylvania, near his birthplace, to make the landscape of his youth his subject. Over the next two decades, working in a converted barn that was poised between an apple orchard and a pond, Rohrer invented a distinctive vocabulary for capturing the spirit and sensations of this place.
In 1984 the artist moved to the former studio of Violet Oakley in Chestnut Hill where his concern for his agrarian roots increased. He made regular visits to Lancaster County, taking thousands of photographs of a field that lies at the origin of the Conestoga River, the area where his ancestors settled nine generations before him. Rohrer’s late paintings treat that landscape like a book of primitive script, expressing Rohrer's vision in an authentic artistic language of his own.
The exhibition was supported by The Dietrich Foundation, the Kathleen C. and John J. F. Sherrerd Endowment for Exhibitions, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Judith Rothschild Foundation, the Robert Montgomery Scott Endowment for Exhibitions, the Locks Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Berton E. Korman, Mr. and Mrs. B. Herbert Lee, Francy and Bayard Storey, and other generous individuals. Promotional support is provided by Amtrak.
Susan Rosenberg, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art