Images & Videos

Warren Rohrer: Intelligent Eyes

Exerpt from video Field Language: Language and Land (2020) in conjunction with the exhibition Field Language: The Art and Poetry of Warren and Jane Rohrer, organized by Penn State's Palmer Museum of Art in 2020. For more information on the exhibition click here.

Warren Rohrer: Artist and the Land. Produced and Directed by Tony Arzt. New York: U.S. International Communications Agency, 1978.

Artist Bio

Warren Rohrer (1927–1995) was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and became one of Philadelphia’s leading abstract painters in the late 20th century. Coming from a Lancaster Mennonite upbringing, he strayed from conventional professional paths of becoming a farmer or minister when he began to pursue art and art education. Rohrer quickly embedded himself in the national contemporary art scene and would go on to teach for 25 years at the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts).

Through the 1960s and '70s, Rohrer worked out of a converted barn in Christiana, Pennsylvania, using the landscape of his youth as his primary subject as he approached total abstraction in his work and began working exclusively with square canvases. These abstractions were rooted in a deep sense of place, with a unique connection between the agricultural fields around him and his exploration of modernist painting and color fields. Many 1970s works are notable for their study of the organization of space through regular and irregular grids and repetitive mark-making. Towards the 1980s these works would transition into increasingly layered and luminous explorations of color.

In 1984, Rohrer moved his studio to the former workspace of acclaimed muralist Violet Oakley in Chestnut Hill. While teaching in Philadelphia and exhibiting extensively, the artist maintained weekly trips to Lancaster to photograph and make studies. Of particular interest was a field at the source of the Conestoga River, a place where nine generations previously, his Mennonite ancestors had originally settled. His later work explored a language of forms found in this landscape, with a deeply personal and gestural script embedded within his abstractions.

The subject of a retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2003, Warren Rohrer's work is now in many museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The National Gallery of Art, The Phillips Collection, Denver Art Museum, Smith College Museum of Art and the Delaware Art Museum. Locks Gallery has represented the artist and his estate since 1974.

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