A field of yellow hazelnut pollen that appears to float just above the ground. A gallery with its darkness penetrated only by red, blue, and green fluorescent light that at once defines and challenges perception. Projected expanses of ever-changing color and blackness that yield a “flicker” effect. Although dramatically different in aesthetics and composition, these works by Wolfgang Laib, James Turrell, and Paul Sharits, respectively, share a mesmerizing blend of color and abstract form. These pieces, along with a linear yarn sculpture by Fred Sandback, a spherical sculpture by Anish Kapoor, and luminous paintings by Mark Rothko, come together in ColorForms to explore the ways in which color remains an essential tool for artists, regardless of medium.
This selection of artworks from the Hirshhorn’s collection, along with several paintings on loan from the National Gallery’s renowned Mark Rothko holdings, date from the post-war era to the present and demonstrate color’s inimitable capacity to evoke spatial structures as well as more elusive effects. Throughout the history of Western art, from the lyrical tones of the fourteenth-century Sienese painter Duccio to the bold, unnaturalistic hues of the Fauves, German Expressionists, and beyond, color has long been artists’ primary means of emotional and symbolic expression. ColorForms presents some of the diverse ways that contemporary artists, freed from the limits of representation and empowered by an array of new media, deploy abstract form to explore color’s evocative possibilities, from the purely optical to the metaphysical.