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Terry Winters

Good Government

1984

Artist

Terry Winters (1949-)

Title

Good Government

Date

1984

Medium

Oil on linen

Dimensions

Overall: 101 1/4 × 136 1/4 in. (257.2 × 346.1 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from The Mnuchin Foundation and the Painting and Sculpture Committee

Accession number

85.15

Object Label

The forms in Terry Winters’s Good Government include crystals, chromosome fragments, dividing cells, and indeterminate bits of organic matter. Winters worked on this large painting for three months, considering it finished when he “thought it looked like one of those maps you saw in grammar school and it said ‘good government’ and everything was working together.” The work’s title also refers to the famous fourteenth-century fresco of the same name by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the Palazzo Publico, Siena, Italy. Partly based on Aristotelian ideals, Lorenzetti’s fresco is an allegory of enlightened civic rule, resulting in a content and prosperous population. Winters’s biomorphic forms, like Lorenzetti’s earlier image, suggest both a landscape and the forms of a burgeoning society, seen from several independent perspectives. Yet according to the artist, such references explain only the inception of the work. “I always start from someplace outside myself,” Winters has said, “and end up someplace inside myself.”