Many people will look at an artwork that features just a few solid blocks of color, and say the same thing: “anyone could have painted this – what makes it art?” There are many answers to that question, and this exhibition will explore some of the reasons why artists might choose to make what are known as color field paintings.
Historically, these paintings were first made in the 1940s and 1950s when artists were interested in pushing abstraction to its limits, dropping the other basic elements of art like form and line to focus on pure color. One example of this is Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square series which features nested squares of different colors. Its intent is to explore the perception of space. Are the squares stacked or layered? Do they appear to protrude or recede from the picture plane? Around the same time, Mark Rothko made a name for himself by painting rectangles of color next to each other, but in his case, the intensity of the colors and the new colors that were produced by their proximity were intended to create a strong emotional response in the viewer.
Later artists came up with other reasons to experiment with blocks of color. Whether it’s conceptual art or performative art, exploration or innovation, sometimes artists like to color inside the lines.