Paint has always been a quintessential art-making material, with artists finding myriad ways of mixing pigment and medium to convey color. As materials and methods have evolved, artists have asked more and more of these transcendent substances. Sometimes they allow the materiality of paint to assert itself in such a strong way that it carries its own weight, both physically and aesthetically.
Material Color showcases some of the innovative ways artists are handling paint today. The twenty artists in this exhibition apply oil, acrylic, encaustic and other pigments to a variety of surfaces using conventional, as well as unexpected methods. With eye droppers, plastic bottles, turkey basters, palette knives (and sometimes even brushes,) they drip, splash, pour, squeeze, squirt and layer their colors, balancing chance and discipline. Several of them peel off dried paint from one surface and transfer it to another, while others model and mold pigment into freestanding three-dimensional shapes. All of these techniques result in colorful, voluptuous surfaces that seduce our eyes and almost beg to be touched.
While it is not the entire story, the idea of paint as a substantial material is central in all of these works. Some heighten our awareness of paint as a liquid, while others reveal a viscous substance that is nearly solid. The addition of thickening agents and gels, and the occasional use of resin quite literally solidify this effect. With their layered surfaces or heavy impasto, the works in Material Color blur the boundaries between painting and sculpture, and seem to transform themselves into three-dimensional objects. A handful of artists begin with real objects, and apply pigment to them, disguising their commonplace origins, and making them vehicles for carrying pure color.
In all of these works there is an interesting tension between control and chaos. Types of pigment and color choices are not random, but the movement of the paint often is. As the paint hardens or dries, the artists’ gestures— spontaneous and accidental or controlled and repetitive—are effectively “frozen,” creating a dimensional snapshot of a moment, or a timeline of an object’s history.
Each of the artists in Material Color engages in a conversation with paint. Using different processes each creates a unique visual language with a diverse vocabulary of marks, always giving color an active voice. The hope in assembling this wide range of individual works is to provide the opportunity for a larger and more meaningful conversation.