‘"Twister: Moving Through Color, 1965-1976"’

"Twister: Moving Through Color, 1965-1976" looks at artists of that era who took the road less traveled, continuing to investigate painting with spatial illusions and other perceptual tricks

Untitled, by Dean Fleming
Untitled, by Dean Fleming
<i>Filles de Kilimanjaro III (Miles Davis)</i>, by 
Kazura Sakai
Filles de Kilimanjaro III (Miles Davis), by Kazura Sakai

"Twister: Moving Through Color, 1965-1976"

Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art
<i>Universe Painting</i>, by John Torreano
Universe Painting, by John Torreano

"Twister" is a focused look into a period of art history that is now undergoing a broad re-examination. In the Sixties and Seventies, when many artists had declared painting dead and moved on to performance and other time-based arts such as video, a group of lesser-known artists took the road less traveled, persisting with their investigation of the static image. Many of the pieces in the show examine how juxtapositions of different shifting tonalities create spatial illusions and other perceptual tricks. The interest in illusion has been present in art throughout history, with notable advances such as perspective playing a major role in the development of Western thought. Unlike their forebearers in history, these artists isolated illusion from representation, making the illusion itself the focus of their works. They also participated heavily in the design culture of their era, contributing their aesthetic vision to objects ordinary people would encounter on a daily basis. A renewed interest in this chapter of art history is therefore almost inevitable, given the current popular resurgence of modernist design.

#54, by Roy Colmer, is an extremely effective example of the strategy of shifting tonalities. The spray-applied, masked horizontal stripes on this piece are about an inch in width. The stripes change subtly in color moving across the image. At first glance it is tempting to assign binary status to the stripes, that is, to mentally assign half of them to one kind and half to another. This, too, is an illusion. Toward the center of the painting, a more complex pattern emerges. The result mimics the effect of stereoscopic vision on items that have a sheen. Carlos Silva's Arco Viejo (Old Arch) is another sophisticated work. Most of the painting is covered with gray discs on a white background. The size and shape of the discs are manipulated, in a series of bands, to create conflicting illusions of perspective, pushing the viewer's perception of the bands in various directions. Color is introduced through a series of orange and blue dots in the center of the discs, and through a partial orange border which is graded to white and then delineated in a still brighter pure orange. Like Muybridge's photographs of figures in motion, this piece is transformed from a completely unsentimental investigation into an expression of honest beauty by its function as a record of a search for truth. Omar Rayo's Saras (1977) is mostly remarkable for its frankly Escher-like exploration of folded space, which will be appreciated by many viewers for its accessibility. John Goodyear's Rapid Reflect takes a slightly different tack. A series of black acrylic strips, positioned perpendicular to the picture plane, reflect a checked and striped background. As the viewer moves across the intentionally lit panel, the reflections in the acrylic strips radically change the image seen. Kazuya Sakai's work was influenced by music, especially jazz, conceptual and synthetic music. His fascinating work Filles de Kilimanjaro III (Miles Davis), or Girls of Kilimanjaro III (Miles Davis) (1976), alludes to musical notation without frank imitation and incorporates elements of Japanese aesthetic influence. The colors, one imagines, represent the instruments, with the positioning of various elements, their softened or defined edges, and the up-and-down flow of the composition reflecting various tonal qualities in the music.

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"Twister: Moving Through Color, 1965-1976", Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, #54, Roy Colmer, Carlos Silva, Arco Viejo (Old Arch), Omar Rayo, Saras, John Goodyear, Rapid Reflect, Kazuya Sakai, Filles de Kilimanjaro III (Miles Davis), Girls of Kilimanjaro III (Miles Davis)

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