One of the most important artists to come out of DC, Tom Green (1946-2012) is known for intensely graphic, boldly colored, large paintings on canvas from the 1980s and after. The works introduced an allegorical, pictorial language into painting, breaking significantly from the materialism of the Washington Color School.

This modest exhibition presents five watercolors from the early 1970s -- a few years after Green received his MFA and before he developed his signature graphic style. In comparison to his mature works, these are more naturalistic and fluid -- they depict man-made objects immersed in perspectival, watery landscapes. The works are wild, funny, sexually provocative,and capture the back-to-the-land spirit of the era. But they also possess elements and motifs that would populate his later canvases, such as the surface riples of a body of water. Tom Green took inspiration from the natural landscape of the DC area -- where he lived his whole life -- particularly the Potomac Watershed and C&O Canal.

WPA organized this exhibition to coincide with the creation of a massive mural on the street directly in front of the gallery. Measuring 375' in length, it was to serve as a tribute to Green and an opportunity for people in this community to exert some agency over the look and feel of their neighborhood. Unfortunately, a week before we were to begin painting, the District Department of Transportation told us they would not permit the project because the Federal Highway Administration had recently decided to no longer allow painting on any streets -- even local streets like ours.

Image: From Tom Green's Source Series, December 3, 1981 -- representative of the work in this show

about the artist

Tom Green (1942-2012) was a painter and printmaker who taught at the Corcoran School of the Arts + Design for four decades. His work is in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum and National Museum of American Art. He had his first exhibition at WPA in 1977 (curated by Jack Rasmussen) and served on the WPA board of directors from 1985 to 1990.

WPA would like to thank Linda Green, Kathryn Wichmann, and Jayme McLellan for their support. This project is supported by The DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, JBG Smith, and the Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation.


September 9 - December 9, 2017


Washington Project for the Arts
2124 8th Street NW
Washington, DC 20001