News & Features » Miscellany

In "hover, " intellect is overshadowed by purely sensory experience.

Pure Color

comment
How often do you really think about color? Perhaps first thing in the morning while getting dressed (does this olive green shirt go with these khakis?) or maybe at the Home Depot, shuffling through color swatches in search of the perfect shade for the living room. Beyond how color fits into schedules, projects and everyday routines, can color be spiritual? Intellectual? Mood altering? Many artists, designers and psychologists, alike, have explored these notions. Mark Rothko created large canvases with hazily defined rectangles of color that he used to convey emotion and a sense of the spiritual. Minimalist artists, like Frank Stella, however, sought to sever meaning from color and form and rather understand it strictly for its formal properties. In many ways, Melanie Christian's current show at Main Art Gallery tries to find a happy medium between these two streams of thought. Christian, who is also Main Art's gallery coordinator, presents 19 perfectly square (22-by-22-inch) white panels and coats them with a variety of pure colors. Some of the color applications are solid and polished — the hand of the artist is imperceptible. Others are opaque in the middle, but bleed and fuzz around the edges like a torn piece of parchment paper. Here, the artist's hand is delicately apparent. These purely abstract panels march around the room like an elevated Mondrian chair rail. Christian mounts her panels so that they mysteriously project from the wall—a technique she refers to as "hovering." And "hover," as the title of the show, also reflects her ability to coerce these washes of pigment to loom over the straight-edged sterile form of the square panel itself. When the viewer is standing in the middle of the gallery, the color panels swirl around this viewer in a panoramic manner. Squares of lime, burgundy, pink, teal, mint, aqua, purple, white, fuchsia, salmon and mustard together form a kaleidoscopic vision that is both stimulating and meditative. Although the artist constrains her often bubble-gum colors within the cold, square straitjacket, they still interact and converse with each other. To take one panel out and view it individually would be a completely different experience; something akin to viewing a tiny detail of a painting without ever seeing the big picture. The presentation of these colors conveys a sense of restricted spontaneity and randomness. Christian states that a few of the panels (two in tones of jewel-colored red) she envisioned as adjacent to each other, but the rest of the placement was not discovered until their actual hanging. Thus, a shuffling of colors may or may not produce a completely different effect. By not being distracted by details and figures, these tiny fields of color allow a Zenlike absorption where intellect is overshadowed by purely sensory experience. The cooler colors optically tend to recede; they do not actually hover, but plunge deep within the white gallery wall. The warmer tones advance and loom before one's eyes. Despite the formulaic presentation of the panels, each color demands individual attention as it vies for glory among its competitors. Thus, the colors break from their straitjackets and seem to exist beyond their white-squared cell. They have breached their constraints and reached a hue-entrenched nirvana. While your experience with color may not be quite as earthshaking, "hover" may indeed leave you just a shade more enlightened.

Add a comment