New York

Roger Welch

Ted Greenwald Gallery

During the mid ’70s, Roger Welch constructed scale models of Polish villages and towns. The sources for these constructions were largely elderly people who had survived World War II and the Holocaust, or who had left Poland before these destructive events took place. Out of the dialogue between the artist and an individual a specific village was reconstructed. In their own way, Welch’s models are as powerful and heartrending as the photographs of Roman Vishniac. Furthermore, they redefined all notions of what constitutes a collaborative work. Another group of work—one that has never been exhibited—is “Imaginary Children,” 1975–80. Using family photographs and other found materials, Welch assembled a pictorial biography of an imaginary child. The connection between these two series, as well as his recent body of work, is memory.

This exhibition comprised seven shaped paintings. Each shape derives from something familiar, such as a golf bag, top hat, sailboat, or car. On these shapes Welch has painted, in a generic realist style, scenes that seem almost like postcards in their banal familiarity. The 18th hole, a man walking along the beach, a young woman gazing at a mountain—these are some of the scenes Welch depicts. And yet, as ordinary as both shape and image are, the total work is open-ended and mysterious.

In inviting the viewer to make a narrative connection between shape and image, Welch has found a way to make the viewer an active participant who finishes the painting. As the artist knows, memory can be a wand that transforms the familiar into the enigmatic. In these paintings the literal shape becomes the container of the instant that is depicted. The imaginative space that exists between the outer shape and the moment it frames makes the work transcend its banal sources.

These recent paintings make it clear that Welch has continued to find ways to explore his subject with a conceptual clarity and a gift for narrative. Given our current thirst for stories, perhaps more of his work will be seen soon. It definitely deserves our attention.

John Yau