A few weeks ago I was on the Skowhegan website checking to see who this summer's faculty will be and discovered that Phong Bui is a 1985 graduate of my alma mater, The University of the Arts. I've also learned, in the past few years, that both Joe Fyfe (class of 1976) and Christine Hiebert (class of 1983) are also alumni of The University of the Arts* - that means we must have all studied under the same person, the late Warren Rohrer, who taught in the painting department from 1974-1992. Recent posts on Lester Van Winkle and Richard Carlyon and responses from their former students have got me thinking about some of my old teachers.
I'm not sure to what extent these other artists interacted with Warren, or how much influence he may have had on them, but when I was there Warren was very much a leading figure in the department.
Warren Rohrer - more images from Artnet, reviewed on Artcritical, his biography and some images from Marian Locks Gallery, an Art in America article by Miriam Seidel.
Joe Fyfe - Yes, I chose this recent Joe Fyfe image for it's resemblance to the Warren Rohrer piece directly above it. From what I understand Fyfe was making photo-realistic paintings until about ten years ago, when he made a big switch to the very casual, rough, elegant paintings he is now known for - paintings which make me think very much of Warren's work.
Warren's paintings were often many layers of paint applied like stitches, you get a sense of the weave of the canvas underneath all the paint, or his marks added to the the canvas so you were aware of both the canvas and the paint marks, becoming one thing; or he would leave the canvas visible at the edges or someplace. The canvas was important, the painting wasn't just an image placed on top. The whole painting was one thing. I think he worked slowly and meditatively. Joe paints quickly and thinly, but his paintings have a similar physical presence and "zen" quality. I say zen because that's the word to use, but Warren was a Mennonite.
I'm really curious about Joe's photo-realist work and why he made such an about-face. He seems to have been doing okay before, he was a 1994 artist-in-residence at the University of Tenessee "as a painter of photographically derived imagery". It's weird to hear someone speak with so much conviction about art knowing that only recently they were doing - and probably thinking and saying? - something completely different.
(I've studied under both Warren and Joe, Warren from about 1988-1990 and Joe in 2004).
Christine Hiebert - Christine Hiebert on Artnet, Christine Hiebert in The Brooklyn Rail - that piece illustrated in The Brooklyn Rail article looks like the same one as the image above from Artnet, but with a much yellower background. Is it the same piece?
Phong Bui - This Artnet photo is from his 2005 installation at Sarah Bowen Gallery. Phong Bui also publishes The Brooklyn Rail.
Are there any artists reading this who studied under Warren? I am out of touch with the kids I graduated with, and the recidivism rate is very high, but it would be nice to see what people might be doing now.
*or Philadelphia College of Art, it underwent a name change. I entered The Philadelphia College of Art in 1986, then it became The Philadelphia Colleges of the Arts, and I graduated from The University of the Arts in 1990.
PS - Skowhegan looks really good this summer, they have Phong Bui, Nicole Eisenman, Lisa Sigal. I'm not applying, it costs too much for me right now, and I want to raft. Plus, maybe my Skowhegan moment has passed? I've applied so many times and am tired of it - but I recommend applying to my younger artist friends who might be reading this. I think if you can get accepted at the right time in your life it would be a wonderful experience.