Hagerstown native William S. Dutterer brings wit and mystery to paintings

By Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator
We hope that you enjoy this new acquisition from the collection. If you visit the museum, we invite you to see the work, which is on view in the lobby corridor.
William S. Dutterer (American, 1943–2007)
Mask, 1978
Acrylic on canvas
66″ H x 72″ W
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of The Kohler Foundation, 2022Though primarily abstract, William Dutterer’s paintings and drawings are highly personal and often elusive. Typically, his work references representational forms and are characterized by witty and sometimes mysterious subjects. In Mask, Dutterer juxtaposed a white face covering floating in space (placed in a square) with a combined background of red, tan, and black. The layering and arrangement of loose, wavy brushstrokes recall a cloudy sky or smoke. Though the work’s meaning is not entirely clear, the artist could be alluding to notions of concealed identity or the possibly the supernatural, for like a phantom, there are no eyes behind this mask: this spirit remains anonymous and enigmatic.

A Hagerstown native, Dutterer began as a minimalist painter and created an important body of interdisciplinary body of work spanning four decades. Dutterer spent his early years in Washington, DC, where he shared a studio space with African American artist Sam Gilliam (see his print in the corridor outside the Groh Gallery). In addition, Dutterer spent a great deal of time with his friend, Tom Downing, as well as colleagues Ann Truitt, Howard Mehring and Gene Davis, who were associated with the Washington Color Field School. Commuting between Washington and New York for part of his career, Dutterer served as a professor at the Corcoran School of Art and was passionate about the artistic process, research, and making work. His teacher, mentor, and life-long friend, Grace Hartigan, said of Dutterer, “Bill invented and interpreted life for himself, and then shared it in his art.”

In June 2022, the museum received a gift of five works by Dutterer from the Kohler Foundation (Kohler, Wisconsin). which includes both paintings and prints by the artist.

This WeekendArt is sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Charles Strong.

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