Color as Field

April 12th, 2008

Four paintings from the Color as Field exhibition currently at the American Art Museum, with notes from the associated catalogue by Karen Wilkin.

Tin Lizzie Green

Jules Olitski, Tin Lizzie Green, 1964, plate 24.

“While scrupulously avoiding anything resembling psychological symbolism, the ‘post-painterly’ conception of ‘cool’ included the belief that a painting, no matter how apparently restrained, could address the viewer’s whole being — emotions, intellect, and all — through the eye” (p17).


Friedel Dzubas, Lotus, 1962, plate 32.

“Discrete shapes, dynamic imbalances, cursive drawing, and even the most elliptical, implicit suggestions of narrative were all jettisoned, in various combinations and sometimes all at once. The single indispensable element proved to be color — in generous amounts — which, paradoxically, both emphasized the painting’s presence as an object and suggested vast, ambiguous spaces that one saw into but could not, even metaphorically, enter” (p17, 22).


Morris Louis, Mem, 1959, plate 16.

“This emphasis on color was usually allied with a strenuous avoidance of the materiality so crucial to gestural Abstract Expressionism. Touch could be so reduced that paint applications in Color Field abstractions can seem, depending on our sympathies, either inexplicably magical or almost mechanical. Color can appear to have been breathed onto the surface or, when thinned down and soaked into the canvas, to have fused with it, the way dye fuses with fabric. The results is an ineffable, seemingly weightless expanse. Even though essentially all we are left to contemplate are the physical materials of painting (refined as they are), the result is an exquisitely rarefied type of abstraction in which material means are almost completely subservient to the visual. Any lingering vestiges of the painting’s lost history as depiction disappear, and we are faced with pure, eloquent, wordless seeing” (p22).

Earthen Bound

Kenneth Noland, Earthen Bound, 1960, plate 19.

6 Responses to “Color as Field”

  1. Greg Pass Says:

    Forgot to thank Sudhir for letting me know about the exhibit!

  2. EMily Says:

    Found you! Looked up “twittering” to see what it was all about. I am so impressed by how you always are stimulating your mind …

  3. shawna Says:

    wow this art is very stange i think it has no meaning about the paint It might just be me but I think it need more bright colors in it. to me i think its a sad painting that has no feeling about it!!!!

  4. Colin Hall Says:

    Hi Shawna,

    I don’t agree. I find the muted colours are a real aid to the digestion. Concentrating on the images I find that they allow my mind to be clear of thoughts and yet remain very focused.

    All the best

    Col :-)

  5. Anonymous Says:

    If these paintings have no meaning than how can you assign an emotion such as sadness? You just gave the painting content. The paintings have a historical content in that the paintings were reactionary to abstract expressionism.

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