Colour Chart addresses the impact of standardized, mass-produced colour on the art of the past sixty years. Taking the commercial colour chart as its central metaphor, the book chronicles an important artistic shift that took place during the middle of the twentieth century: a frank acknowledgement of colour as a matter-of-fact element rather than a vehicle of spiritual or emotional content. Collected here are forty-four artists who explore in their works two senses of the phrase 'ready-made colour': colour bought off the shelf, rather than mixed on a palette, and colour assigned by chance or arbitrary system, rather than composed with traditional chromatic harmonies in mind.
Published to accompany a major exhibition first shown at The Museum of Modern Art and now on tour at Tate Liverpool, the book begins with Marcel Duchamps virtuosic painting Tu'um, made in 1918. With its long array of colour samples advancing across the canvas, Tu'um is a forbear of the work that followed. This early recognition of colour's commercial nature was fully explored more than three decades later by artists such as Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, Alighiero Boetti, and others who, between the 1950s and the 1970s, redefined the parameters of colour. The repercussions of this transformation continue to be felt into the twenty-first century, in work by artists including Sherrie Levine, Mike Kelley, and Damien Hirst, as well as others who explore colour in digital technology. This volume traces lineage of the questions provoked by artists' new relationship to colour, and the variety of answers that were the result.
Ann Temkin is the Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art.
Briony Fer is Professor of Art History at University College, London.
Nora Lawrence is a Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art.
Tate Liverpool Colour Chart: Reinventing Colour, 1950 to Today. Exhibition dates 29 May - 13 September 2009.
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