Farnsworth Art Museum

Rockland, ME




John Wissemann: Japanese Transformations

February 18 - June 3, 2001


An exhibition of large-format colored pencil drawings by John Wissemann will open on February 17 and run through June 3, 2001, at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine.

A painter, printmaker, draftsman, and teacher, John Wissemann has for years found inspiration in his abiding passion for art history. The art of ancient Greece and Rome and the medieval and renaissance eras have all inspired series of works. More recently he has turned to Japanese art for inspiration. (left: Lion Dance II, 2000, colored pencil on paper)

Working from stencils and using colored pencils, Wissemann creates large format drawings based on 18th and 19th century Japanese woodblock prints. These feature a variety of figures, ranging from warriors to geishas. Of his process, he says, "The figure is taken out of context-made larger-sometimes simplified. From my master drawings I create stencils. Keeping the drawing of the figure authentic is very important to me. I start a composition with a figure or figures then begin to innovate. Figures from several different artists are often combined in one composition."

While retaining the unmistakable look of Japanese prints, these works are distinctly different and individual. With an unerring eye for placement, Wissemann superimposes his figures on fields of pattern that dance with kinetic energy and rhythm. While based on a stylized Japanese realism, the overall meaning and references of the works are entirely modernist and largely American. The careful observer can see allusions to Piet Mondrian, Marsden Hartley, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, and Clyfford Still.

Art critic Ken Greenleaf says: "The references are subtle, and are only recognizable by someone familiar with modern American art, but they are distinct and clearly deliberate. The cultural blending in these works runs very deep. Transforming the Japanese woodblock process into a reverse mirror of itself in the stencils is a very American idea. The stencils become simalcra of the original, recreating part of what was there originally, but in a new form."

John Wissemann was born in New York City in 1925, received a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1951 and a master of fine arts degree in 1952 from Syracuse University. He served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946. A teacher since 1953, he was adjunct professor at Southampton College, Long Island University, from 1971 to 1981 and chairman of the art department at Southold Free Union School from 1983 to 1985. He has shown his work in group and solo exhibitions around the country for over thirty years and received awards from the American Watercolor Society, New York; the Washington, D.C. Watercolor Society; and the Silvermine Center in Norwalk, Connecticut. His work is included in private and public collections throughout the United States. John Wissemann has retired from teaching to concentrate exclusively on his painting. He currently divides his time between homes and studios in Southold, New York, and Cushing, Maine.

Read more about the Farnsworth Art Museum in Resource Library Magazine

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 5/23/11

Search Resource Library for thousands of articles and essays on American art.

Copyright 2011 Traditional Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit corporation. All rights reserved.