Contemporary Museum

Honolulu, HI



Apple Canon: Paintings by Thomas Woodruff


New York artist Thomas Woodruff provides an unusual turn on the folk maxim "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" in his installation titled "Apple Canon" in which the gallery walls are arrayed with 365 small paintings of apples. As much "portraits" of individual apples (none of the subjects is a duplicate) as they are still lifes, the 365 paintings on 9 by 8 inch canvases depict every kind of apple Woodruff could find. Some are shown whole; others have been sliced, bitten, carved, stacked, impaled with toothpicks, or invaded by worms (portrayed in the artist's tongue-in-cheek style wearing various hats and goofy grins). (left: detail from Apple Canon, 1996, 365 panels, acrylic on linen on board, each 9 x 8 inches, Courtesy of the artist and P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York)

Despite the number of canvases, Woodruff conceived "Apple Canon" as one work, and, indeed, the cumulative effect of the images is central to the intent of the piece. The title is a metaphor, for in music a canon is a form of composition in which the melody is repeated by successive voices of different pitches, overlapping and harmonizing, elaborating the theme as the piece progresses. "Apple Canon" also functions symbolically, its panels like talismans meant to ward off illness through their depiction of robust color and health. For Woodruff, the exercise of making the work was an act by which he, as a gay man, hoped to ward off AIDS-related illnesses on behalf of those he loves and the millions of others they represent.

Woodruff is well-known for the intensity, clarity and inventiveness of his vision and the precision of his painterly realist style. He received a BFA degree from Cooper Union in 1979 and has had over 20 solo exhibitions as well as participated in many group exhibitions over the last 20 years. In 1997, a survey exhibition of his works, titled Nosegays and Knuckle Sandwiches, was organized by the Atlanta College of Art and traveled to California.

"Apple Canon: Paintings by Thomas Woodruff" is supported in part by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts, American Airlines and Aston Waikiki Beachside Hotel.

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