So, one of the surprising gems that shone out of the debacle of the foot or more of snow and the failed/cancelled Daemen College Anime Club’s Neo NohCon in Buffalo, NY this past weekend was the show at the Albright-Knox Gallery called Remix Color and Light. (That is, of course, in addition to meeting some really interesting and devoted young students and professionals. I really do miss the excitement of my interactions with students. I think Brent does, too, since he was quick to jump into his “professor” role with a painting student in the studio at Daemen. But, then, does he ever not?)
Like the exhibit at Moma it was about color, and like that show the curator seems to have been confused about what she had actually created. Purportedly it “was conceived as an opportunity to muse on color and light. It highlights the variety of ways we use and interpret color, from the personal and emotional to the intellectual and historical.” But it was so much more, and, in my opinion, put the Moma show to shame. The operant word was remix. What the curator was able to so beautifully accomplish with works from their collection was to highlight a particular work, with color as the main criterion, and then to surround that work with other works that, as Hoagy Carmichael might say, “accentuate the positive.” The viewer was then compelled to see not only the central work but also each of the other works with entirely new insight. The museum’s website fails to demonstrate, and for me to try to reproduce the effect would be an act of futility, but in a way the juxtaposition of my kimono scarf and the Rothko (above and below) demonstrate.
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.