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MoMA Presents Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 To Today, With 44 Contemporary Artists
Frank Stella (American, born 1936), Gran Cairo. (1962), Alkyd on canvas, 85 ¼ x 85 ¼” (216.5 x 216.5 cm), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Purchase, with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art. © 2008 Frank Stella/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

NEW YORK.- Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today takes as its point of departure the commercial color chart, an item that openly attests to the status of paint as mass-produced and standardized. Midway through the twentieth century, long-held convictions regarding the spiritual aspects and scientific properties of color gave way to an acceptance and embrace of color as a commercial product. At the same time, many artists rejected traditional artistic pedagogy about the relationships between colors and instead adopted aesthetic approaches that relied on chance, readymade sources, or arbitrary systems. The first major exhibition devoted to this pivotal transformation, Color Chart will feature some 90 works of art—including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, digital art, videos, and films—by 44 artists, primarily ranging in date from the 1950s to the present. Several site-specific installations and commissions for the exhibition will be installed in the sixth-floor galleries and the Museum’s lobby. The exhibition, which is organized by Ann Temkin, The Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Curator of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, is on view from March 2 through May 12, 2008, in The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Gallery, sixth floor, and other locations in the Museum.

Color Chart opens with Tu m’ (1918), Marcel Duchamp’s final painting, which features a cascade of lozenge-shaped color samples inspired by a paint manufacturer’s catalog. In the few years before he painted this work, Duchamp had broken ground with his invention of the readymade; with Tu m’, he set the stage for the interpretation of color itself as readymade. This notion would become a widespread artistic preoccupation three decades later.

The exhibition examines two separate but related meanings of readymade color: color as store-bought rather than hand-mixed, divorced from an artist’s subjective taste or decisions; and color found and appropriated from everyday life—fluorescent bulbs, car color, or computer color, for example. Says Ms. Temkin, “The color chart sensibility that began to spread among artists in the middle of the twentieth century was very much tied to a rhetoric that favored the democratization of the realm of fine art. The reference point for these artists was to be ordinary life, industrial or consumer culture, rather than a transcendent realm apart. They positioned themselves and their work not as an elite fraternity but as a part of the real world—as exemplified by the blunt utilitarianism of the housepainter’s color chart.”

Color Chart unites works by artists rarely considered together in the canon of contemporary art, bringing them into dialogue through provocative and revelatory juxtapositions. The exhibition includes pivotal masterpieces by such internationally renowned artists as Gerhard Richter, whose 31-foot-long Ten Large Color Panels (1966–71/72), never before exhibited in the United States, will be on view. Color Chart also explores lesser-known dimensions of the work of great artists such as Andy Warhol, John Chamberlain, and Sherrie Levine. Finally, the exhibition introduces American audiences to work by artists who have remained unfamiliar in the United States despite great success in Europe, such as Giulio Paolini, André Cadere, and François Morellet.

There are several site-specific installations in the exhibition. Damien Hirst’s spot painting, John, John (1988), is painted directly onto a wall, in keeping with Hirst’s original conception for this series of works. Daniel Buren has created silk vests in five different colors of his signature stripes to be worn by the Museum’s security guards. Works by Niele Toroni, Sol LeWitt, and Lawrence Weiner are all being newly created or recreated for this exhibition. ZOBOP! (2006) by Jim Lambie, a multicolor floor installation made of vinyl tape, will be on view in the Museum’s Agnes Gund Garden Lobby.

The exhibition is supported by Benjamin Moore Paints. Generous funding is provided by Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley and by Glenstone Foundation, Mitchell P. Rales, Founder. Additional support is provided by Cultural Services, Embassy of France in the United States and by The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art.

The accompanying publication, Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 to Today, features essays by Ann Temkin, The Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Curator of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA, and Briony Fer, Professor of Art History at University College, London, which provide a historical context for understanding the impact and significance of standardized, mass-produced color on the art of the past 60 years. In its plate section, the catalogue also includes shorter essays about each artist in the exhibition written by Ms. Temkin, Melissa Ho, artist and writer, and Nora Lawrence, curatorial assistant at MoMA. Color Chart is published by The Museum of Modern Art and is available at MoMA Stores and online at It is distributed to the trade through Distributed Art Publishers (D.A.P.) in the United States and Canada, and through Thames + Hudson internationally. Clothbound, 9 x 12 inches; 248 pages, 280 color illustrations. Price: $55.00.

Today's News

March 2, 2008

MoMA Presents Color Chart: Reinventing Color, 1950 To Today, With 44 Contemporary Artists

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