Robert Witz
ROBERT WITZ (1934-2021)


Born in Tomah, Wisconsin in 1934, Bob Witz stayed pretty close to home until he joined the Army in 1954 and went to Europe. He returned to receive a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1959. After the critic Robert Pincus-Witten published a three-page spread with Witz’s letter/art submissions in Artforum's September 1973 issue, the Midwesterner moved to Manhattan. He founded the East Village magazine Appearances wherein artists such as Bill Jensen and Betty Tompkins published their pictures alongside offbeat poetry and fiction. For forty years, Witz has resided in a Chelsea loft cluttered with pieces of the past and since the 1970s, Witz has been producing paintings of various sizes and "Milk Carton" sculptures that vary in height from nine to fifty inches and covered with layers of oil paint, and found materials, such as bottle caps, rubber bands, coins, tin cans, hair ties, bobby pins, and wire. Some become bronzes cast from molds of milk carton constructions. Witz is known as a publisher and a painter who has exhibited widely. In 2012, Phong Bui curated a solo show of his work and, in 2020, Cay Sophie Rabinowitz curated a Milk Carton show at OSMOS in New York City.

Project Description 

Storage of 50 years of Paintings, Sculptures, Drawings, and Sketchbooks

"Everything has been figured out, except how to live. " Jean-Paul Sartre

I work and live in a one-room studio loft, surrounded by my artwork from a life's production. Because of this situation, the acquiring of rental storage space for my fifty years of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and sketchbooks will allow me to have more space to continue to make new art and create a safer environment for me as I get older. 

As an only child, I grew up in a family home that was a small ‘prefab’ shack trucked in place to a lot in a tiny town and military base in the heart of Wisconsin. It was the 1930s. I worked at my father’s gas station—pumping gas, changing oil and tires, and washing windshields. I was always drawing and sketching. In the early 1950s, I joined the army, was stationed in Germany, and also traveled to Berlin, Paris, and Rome. These trips were firsthand comprehensive studies of the classics in art and architecture—influencing my art to the present day. 

One day in the 1970s, I had this milk carton and an orange juice container and I thought I’d make some art out of them, forty years later I am still making “Milk Carton” sculptures. Taking on forms of ‘Buildings’ they play with a notion of remodeling. These rectangular and cylindrical containers are fused together and covered with many layers of oils and acrylics and found materials. They personify my mythic ideas and beliefs, attempting to create an imaginary world that I feel comfortable living in. These sculptures have consisted of taking common objects and transforming them into fantastical visions that transcend time and space. 

The Milk Carton sculptures are pursuing an obsession to invert and reverse the commonplace; to turn it inside out. The portraits that appear on the sculptures are of people I have sketched at a McDonald’s and are of friends of mine or are cut and pasted from sketchbooks. I believe I got my sense of irony and sculptural form from growing up at a gas station with a fabricated building facade made to resemble a log cabin.

I see the Milk Cartons as a culmination of my life's work in the arts. They represent a distillation of a lifetime of production formed from a combination of art and life experience.