The Painting Center: When color matters

Color is slippery. Anyone who has ever tried to translate a casually observed color into pigment on canvas knows that the hue will never be the same as what he or she remembers. Variables like light and shadow change the same basic color from warm to cool, light to dark. And, as Albers taught us, chromatic context is also a critical factor. The lively exhibition, “Color Matters,” at The Painting Center, comprises paintings by thirteen artists for whom the exploration of color’s transience is a driving force.

[Image at top: Becky Yazdan]


Some artists, like Carla Aurich (above) explore the characteristics of natural and artificial color, seeking clarity in an “oversaturated and easily discarded image world.” Others, like Becky Yazdan (image at top), vivify the idea that color, as a signifier of past experiences, can evoke memory.

Barbara Campbell Thomas (above), who spent several weeks this past summer looking at small-scale paintings in Italy, exudes the exuberance and chaos that a full palette can convey. Her paintings seem to contain entire worlds, transcending their small size–the painting pictured above is a mere 10 x 11 inches.

Louise P. Sloane, conjuring the famous Albers color studies, limits her compositions to squares within squares and her palette to saturated hues, widely separated on the color wheel if not strictly complementary. After laying down a monochromatic base coat, she applies “writing” that resembles cake frosting in a contrasting color to create a mesh-like surface through which the basecoat is visible. Like Albers, Sloane is fascinated by how we apprehend color and geometric relationships, but also adds gesture and movement into the mix.

In the statement for the show, April Hammock explains that she is engaged with the “inevitable flux of time,” from the rising of the sun to the disappearance of the raindrop. In 2016, such time-based content, so difficult to convey on a static canvas, seems more suited to video and installation. But clearly, starting with such a daunting challenge has precipitated a lively conversation on the canvas.  

Fukuko Harris adds colorful materials like fruit netting to canvases and works the images “until all marks, lines, and forms allow themselves to unite as a singular world and start their own dialogue to create a special moment”–something that painting, and the painting depicted above, does particularly well. And the idea that a painting can translate specific experience into a unique special moment is a broadly resonant one.

Marianne DeAngelis‘s paintings employ a full palette, turning glimpses of vivid color–reflections on wet pavement, worn street posters, wildflowers, sunsets, and so forth–into complex painterly dramas.

Claudine Metrick‘s use of color, incorporating the play of warm and cool whites and greys, is perhaps the least cheerful and emphatic of all the work in the show, and thus a fitting counterpoint. In her series “Fisherman’s Woman,” she depicts fragments of boats, fish, hearts, cages, and vessels in an exploration of marriage, separation, and loneliness. Although she uses bursts of color, overall, she doesn’t rely on it, but rather on drawing and the layering of imagery to create the psychological effect she is after.

Stephanie Franks‘ pieces start with an observed spatial relationship, but eventually the color commandeers the situation, turning the piece into something completely different, such that the circumstances that precipitated the painting become unrecognizable. 

Exploring the power of color, these thirteen deeply engaged artists show that it does indeed matter.  

Color Matters,” curated from The Painting Center’s Art File by Jack McWhorter, Al Peters and James Patrick Reid. Artists include Ophir Agassi, Carla Aurich, Marianne DeAngelis, Stephanie Franks, April Hammock, Fukuko Harris, Ruth Ava Lyons, Claudine Metrick, Louise P. Sloane, Barbara Campbell Thomas, Kimberly Thorpe and Becky Yazdan. The Painting Center, Chelsea, New York, NY. Through January 30, 2016.

Related posts:
Report from Greensboro, North Carolina
Barbara Campbell Thomas: Ten Images (or An Abstract Painter�s Pilgrimage to Italy)
Readymade color at MoMA


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  1. Thank You so much for posting your thoughts of this lovely show.

  2. Wish I could see this show!

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