Color Field

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Composition II (Still Life) (1916) by Theo van Doesburg
Composition XX (1920) by Theo van Doesburg
Wasko, Man in the Night (1988) by Ryszard Wasko, dedicated to Barnett Newman

Color Field, described in sourced art quotes. Color Field was a style of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. Many of its early proponents were among the pioneering abstract expressionists / w:New York School (art). Color Field is characterized primarily by large fields of flat, solid colour spread across or stained into the canvas creating areas of unbroken surface and a flat picture plane. The art movement places less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes, and action, in favour of an overall consistency of form and process. In Color Field painting 'color is freed from objective context and becomes the subject in itself.'

Quotes[edit]

1950s[edit]

  • The important thing is that Clyff Still – you know his work? – and Rothko, and I – we've changed the nature of painting.. ..I don't mean there aren't any other good painters. Bill [= Willem the Kooning ] is a good painter, but he's a 'French' painter [by following the more aesthetic French influence). I told him so, the last time I saw him after his last show.. ..all those pictures in his last show start with an image. You can see it even though he's covered it up, or tried to.. .Style – that's the French part of it. He has to cover it up with style..
    • * Jackson Pollock, in an interview, 1956; as quoted in Conversations with Artists, by Seldon Rodman, New York, Capricorn Books, 1961, pp. 84-85

1960s[edit]

  • My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen is there. It really is an object.. ..and anyone who gets involved enough in this, finally has to face up to the objectness of whatever it is, that he’s doing; he is making a thing.
    • Frank Stella (1964), as quoted in Abstract Art, Anna Moszynska, Thames and Hudson 1990, p. 202
  • I still, when I judge my own pictures (either while I'm working or after I think it's finished) determine if they work in a certain kind of space through shape or color. I think all totally abstract pictures – the best ones that really come off – Newman, Pollock, Noland – have tremendous space; perspective space despite the emphasis on flat surface. For example, in Noland a band of yellow in relation to a band of blue and one of orange can move in depth although they are married to the surface. This has become a familiar explanation, but few people really see and feel it that way.. ..in my work, because of color and shape a lot is read in the landscape sense..
    • Helen Frankenthaler (1965), in 'Interview with Helen Frankenthaler', Henry Geldzahler; 'Artforum' 4. no. 2, October 1965 p. 37
  • Ken Noland could use concentric circles; he'd want to get them in the middle [of the painting] because it's the easiest way it get them there, and he want them there in the front, on the surface of the canvas. If you're that much involved with the surface of anything, you're bound to find symmetry the most natural means.
    • Frank Stella (1966) in 'Questions to Stella and Judd', Bruce Glaser, in Art New 65' no 5. September 1966

1970s[edit]

  • I don't know what Color Field painting means. I think it was probably invented by some critic, which is okay, but I don't think the phrase means anything. Color Field painting? I mean, what is color? Painting has to do with a lot of things. Color is among the things it has to do with. It has to do with surface. It has to do with shape, It has to do with feelings which are more difficult to get at.
    • w:Jules Olitski (1970), quoted in Painters Painting, a Candid History of The Modern Art Scene 1940-1970, E. de Antonio, Abbeville Press 1984, p. 81

1980s and later[edit]

  • The artworks of the so called Color Field painters dramatically enlarged the meaning of the label 'Abstract Expressionism', but through the clarifying lens of hindsight, they also seem to prefigure ideas.. ..of the loosely associated, aesthetically and chronologically divers group who came to be categorized under the rubric 'Color Field'. These were the painters – among them, Helen Frankenthaler, w:Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland and w:Jules Olitski – whose work was include in the exhibition 'Post Painterly Abstraction' [Los Angeles, 1964, curated by Clement Greenberg.
    • w:Karen Wilkin (2007), in 'Notes on Color Field Painting' - on the legacy of post-painterly abstraction, occasioned by the exhibition and catalogue for 'Color as Field: American Painting 1950–1975'
  • What sets the best Color Field paintings apart [from Abstract Expressionism ] is the extraordinary economy of means with which they manage not only to engage our feelings but also to ravish the eye. At times, it can seem as if the artist's goal was to see how stripped-down a picture could be before it ceased to be interesting to look at.
    • w:Karen Wilkin (2007), in 'Notes on Color Field Painting' - on the legacy of post-painterly abstraction, occasioned by the exhibition and catalogue for 'Color as Field: American Painting 1950–1975'
  • In 1953, Noland and w:Morris Louis travelled to New York to see galleries and studios and to visit Greenberg, whom Noland had met in 1950 at the legendary w:Black Mountain College and continued to see frequently.. ..who arranged for them to see the new work of the young, virtually unknown Frankenthaler, in her absence. Following Frankenthaler's example, the two painters began to experiment with staining [the canvas] on their return to Washington.
    • w:Karen Wilkin (2007), in 'Notes on Color Field Painting' - on the legacy of post-painterly abstraction, occasioned by the exhibition and catalogue for 'Color as Field: American Painting 1950–1975'.

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