Design New England

Color Reigns at MassArt

Pigments and spices become saturated piles of color in Sonia Falcone’s Campo de Color.

By Courtney Goodrich

The stories inside our March/April issue (now online and in homes!) — from rooftop gardens to art studios to expert gardeners’ plant choices — remind us that spring is almost here, but, right now, our outdoor world is mostly white, with a dash of gray sky, and some grimy black road grit. For relief, we suggest Color Fields at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design where curator Lisa Tung has turned the school’s Bakalar & Paine Galleries into a color-filled exhibit. With pieces from 14 contemporary artists, this show pays homage to the history of color and the art of pigmentation. Free and open to the public, the show is up through March 7.

Both the downstairs and upstairs gallery spaces are filled with pieces that play with color, saturation, gradation, and vibration, among other elements associated with color theory and the Color Field movement, a style of abstract painting that began in the United States in the 1940s. Unlike abstract expressionism, artists involved in the Color Field movement viewed color itself as the subject of a work of art, and they created pieces recognizable mostly by their flat expanses of solid color.

Sonia Falcone’s Campo de Color is a colorful circle of pigments and spices.

Upstairs, Bolivian multi-media artist Sonia Falcone’s Campo de Color is the first piece you notice — and smell. Clay saucers form a huge circle on the floor, and each saucer is filled with pigments and spices from diverse places around the world. Falcone first created a rendition of this for the 2012 Montevideo Biennale in Uruguay, and then Tung spotted it at the 2013 Venice Biennale in Italy. “It just stayed with me after that,” says Tung.

Streamers in Rebecca Baumann’s Colour Study III fall to the floor.

Next to the staircase on the lower level is Australian artist Rebecca Baumann’s colorful waterfall of streamers. The lightness of the thin strips of crepe paper is appealing, and as they cascade and pool on the floor, the delicate material creates a powerful visual statement.

Also by Rebecca Baumann is Automated Colour Field (Variation IV). One hundred split panel clocks cause solid color papers to flip down (like an old-fashioned train station schedule) at haphazard intervals. The cards’ color and timing is completely random, and so the effect is a bit chaotic, yet every flip triggers a brief but thrilling moment and builds anticipation as to when and where the next movement will happen.
Colorful Applause signs are by Joe Zane.

From Cambridge, Massachusetts, Joe Zane is an artist who likes to poke fun at the fame and fortune of the art world. His acrylic Applause signs call for attention and appreciation, while also nodding to color theorist Josef Albers’s studies of color interaction and relativity.

Other pieces are fascinating to see in person — Channa Horwitz’s systematic ink drawings are inspired by dance choreography, Mariah Robertson’s dreamy prints are made by experimenting with chemical treatments and photography paper, and MassArt alumnus Albert Munsell (who created the Munsell Color System) is represented by his Color Sphere, which shows how the elements of hue, value, and chroma work together with a simple spin of a sphere (by a gallery attendant, of course).

Great design is always at your fingertips! Read Design New England's March/April 2015 issue online!

Continue Reading Below