Zane Bennett Contemporary Art is pleased to announce an exhibition entitled Black Space. The opening is Friday January 25th at the gallery, 435 South Guadalupe Street, across from the rail station, from 5:00‐7:00 pm to coincide with the Railyard Arts District Last Friday Art Walk.
Painters have been fascinated by the color black and have used the color as a basis for their paintings since the prehistoric cave drawings. With the exhibition, Black Space, Zane Bennett celebrates the use of black in the works of the following artists: Pierre Soulages, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, Robert Motherwell and Donald Judd. Each artist reveals a particular quality of the color.
Pierre Soulages has been known as “the painter of black;” he states that black is “….both a colour and a non‐colour. When light is reflected on black, it transforms and transmutes it. It opens up a mental field all of its own.” Jean Bond Rafferty identifies Soulages’ process simply: the artist “would lay down backgrounds of white or luminous layers of blue, yellow, red, orange or brown, overpainting this with thick barlike forms in black that he scraped away using brushes, trowels or palette knives to reveal streaks or patches of underlying light and color.” Then the striations in the black allow the color to shine forth almost as if the painting were a stain glass window. This metaphor became real when Soulage created 104 stained glass windows for the Romanesque Abbey Church Sainte‐Foy in Conques, France between 1987 to 1994. In 1979 Soulage renewed his commitment to the color black when he made 10 huge vertical paintings with multiple panels for the Pompidou exhibition calling them noir lumiere (black light) or outrenoir (ultra black). His ability to create depth draws the viewer into the picture and allows the viewer to experience the phenomenon of light.
Another artist that considered black to be an inspirational color is Ellsworth Kelly. Kelly’s first abstract painting came after he observed light dispersed on the surface of water. In 1950 while in Paris, he painted Seine which was made by black and white rectangles arranged by chance. By the late 1950s his painting stressed shape and planar masses. In the 1960s he developed irregularly shaped canvases; these shapes were created again in his prints with the triangle becoming a favorite form. Kelly explains his process: “I have worked to free shape from its ground, and then to work the shape so that it has a definite relationship to the space around it; so that it has a clarity and a measure within itself of its parts (angles, curves, edges and mass); and so that, with color and tonality, the shape finds its own space and always demands its freedom and separateness.”
Known for his massive minimal constructions from large sheets of steel, Richard Serra is also recognized for his large‐scale drawings and prints that define spatial relationships. In Muddy Waters, a black irregularly shaped rectangle tilts to the side creating a sense of tension within the paper’s space. The deep black surface in this print creates a density and weight, giving the off‐center rectangle a heaviness that is typical of his steel works. Serra believes that the viewer is the subject of the work. Particularly in his sculpture, the person who is navigating the space becomes the content of the work. The subject‐object relationship is reversed and it is the viewer that defines the experience of the spatial relationships.
Motherwell studied literature and philosophy at both Stanford and Harvard and was highly influenced by Alfred North Whitehead, the prominent American philosopher. It was Whitehead who challenged Motherwell to think of abstraction as the process of stripping away the inessential and presenting only the necessary. This became the foundation of the Abstract Expressionists who gathered in New York after World War II. Motherwell spent time in Paris in 1939 and then traveled with Roberto Matta to Mexico where he made his first black and white paintings, acknowledging the subconscious impulses often attributed to the surrealist movement and action painting. This impulse, along with the desire to create essential images that reveal emotional truth and authentic feeling, defined Motherwell’s work. In Black Sounds, the artist uses torn paper to define the black background; his use of shapes as elements creates a rhythm that allows the viewer to perceive an archetypal form that expresses a mood rather than representing an image or object.
Although the artist did not agree with the Minimalist label applied to his work, Judd is recognized as the movement’s most important theoretician. His seminal essay “Specific Objects” (1964) rejected the inherited European artistic values of illusion and represented space, in favor of real physical space. He established a vocabulary of forms that included stacks and boxes, cantilevered or centered in numerical progressions which depersonalized the art, making physical properties of space, scale and the materials themselves the focus of the work. Judd was not interested in art that was a metaphor for human experience; rather, he felt that a shape, a volume, a color, a surface is something in itself. Judd refused to call his work sculpture; he referred to his pieces as “specific objects”, a term he felt was a neutral and free from outdated artistic frameworks.