Friday, July 15, 2005

Colour at the AGO

Great show on at the AGO. The Shape of Colour: Excursions in Colour Field Art, 1950-2005, takes the viewer on a tour of the last half century's fascination with colour and form. Artists such as Mark Rothko, Frank Stella, along with folks such as Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin, a Canadian artist who spent much of her working life in the US. There were in fact several Canadian names in the mix, some of which I hadn't heard of before.

This show is wonderfully curated. It's chronological, but also grouped in terms of responses to and experiments in, the formal questions regarding colour and painting. "Beyond Minimalism", "Shaping Space", "Optical Illusions" and one of my favourite sections, "New Generations".

So much of this was just fantastic--Polly Apfelbaum's "Gun Club", a crushed and dyed velvet sculpture that seems to have spilled across the concrete floor, and John McCracken's "Blue Violet", made in 1971. The simplicity of this piece can't be understated: it looks like a large Ikea shelf waiting to be installed over a bed. Still, it seemed so fresh, absolutely perfect in terms of colour and size. The gallery guide points out his "connections between the wall and the floor" as his innovation, and yes, that was part of the power of the piece, but there's something else too. It seems so radical to have such a clean, simple idea. And it's so confident in its "being". There was something incredibly powerful about this--but after doing a little research on McCracken I wonder if seeing a dozen of these boards would be as powerful?

Agnes Martin
deserves her own entry so I'll hold off on her. (I'm learning a lot about minimalism, but it's slow going for a greenhorn.) Canadian artist Anitra Hamilton's "Parade" (2000), was a fun addition, as was Christian Eckart. Charles Long has a fabulous, massive stereo unit (1995) which seems now to be a party-sized ipod loaded with Stereolab. Three folks can sit on a groovy orange couch and hook up to the lab sounds, zone out and watch a projection of field--this projection didn't hold my attention, but just about every thing else did.

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