The latest show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York–MoMa–is called Color Chart, Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today. It is based on the idea of the color wheel, a staple of school art rooms and art schools for ever, it seems, and centers on the experiments of artists with color, many in the 1960s and 1970s when I was going to graduate school and teaching these new ideas about the use of color. To call it a reinvention, however, is simply wrong.
It is always interesting to me to see by what criteria works/artists are chosen to be in the exhibition and how well the curators fulfill their mission. Their purported “theme” encompasses artists who used “color as a mass-produced and standardized commercial product…the lush beauty that results when contemporary artists assign color decisions to chance, readymade source, or arbitrary system.” This, then, included, notably, several variations of works consisting of color swatches tacked to the wall, with and without color names; and Andy Warhol‘s silk-screened Marilyns in several color combinations and variations on that particular theme including a room of Dan Flavin‘s Neon light sculptures and On Karawa‘s Dates in various colors. OK so far, but could the newly acquired Rauschenberg fit the criteria, or the several large bi-color canvasses (I wasn’t reading all the wall text), the combinations of which appeared to be anything but arbitrary or readymade?
It did get me thinking about color particularly because I have been working so closely with the refined Japanese sense of color. In my deconstructing post, I promised a larger version of the deconstruction of the wonderful purple kimono with its brilliant vermilion lining. I was lucky enough to have in my reserved for later purchase file, this fantastic vermilion fabric (luckier still that nobody had bought it) and the results are here. As with the Mark Rothko (not included in the MoMa Show) pictured next to the scarf, the colors are electric, and never arbitrary.