Sanford Wurmfeld debuts 'Corona Variations' new compositions and palettes in most recent series of paintings

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Sanford Wurmfeld debuts 'Corona Variations' new compositions and palettes in most recent series of paintings
Sanford Wurmfeld, II-51 B/2 (V-Y) - (12), 2021. Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 144.75 in. Artworks Copyright © Sanford Wurmfeld. Images by Yao Zu Lu. Courtesy David Richard Gallery.

NEW YORK, NY.- David Richard Gallery is debuting Sanford Wurmfeld’s newest compositions and color palette in his newest series of 25 canvases, Corona Variations, conceived and created from 2020 through 2023 during the pandemic. The new paintings, all acrylic on canvas, range in size from 18 x 36 inches up to the panoramic full spectrum centerpiece of the series measuring 72 x 144 inches. This wis Wurmfeld’s second solo exhibition with the gallery and his first in the gallery’s New York location.

The new formal element introduced by Wurmfeld in the Corona Variations series is dividing the composition into two halves, either vertically or horizontally. This allows the artist to explore simultaneously the interaction of two different aspects of the color spectrum using a range of hues and values. The palette for the new series includes 61 colors utilizing gray to mute and desaturate the hues. Juxtaposing in a single canvas distinct ranges of the spectrum creates a dramatic contrast between the two halves of the canvas rather than focusing only on the subtle transition from one color to the next across a single surface.

Always using a complex layering of grid structures as his compositional architecture of choice, Wurmfeld focuses on color and its impact in a space and on the viewer. The new Corona Variations series is comprised of the large centerpiece (noted above) and a corresponding smaller 21 x 42-inch version. It is further anchored with four subseries comprised of 4 paintings each that explore two different compositional formats in two different sizes: the smaller series of each measure 30 x 22 and 42 x 22 inches while the larger series are 61 x 42 and 90 x 46 inches. Within each subseries Wurmfeld systematically expands on specific segments of the color spectrum with gradations of values of each hue that maps the gradual transition from one color to the next, including: red to orange, blue to green, Light yellow, and dark violet.

Further exploring the new divided compositions, the artist has created a large horizontal canvas measuring 31 x 90 inches, splitting the canvas into two equal sized horizontal bands that explores simultaneously the spectral transitions from blue-green to red-orange and contrasting valuations, one above the other.

Similarly, a new smaller scaled variation measuring 42 x 21 inches looks at a vertical variation where the composition is divided into 2 square blocks where the transitions of dark violet and light yellow are one above the other.

Another dramatic variation introduces a pair of triptych compositions, each 42 x 64 inches in size, where three vertical bands explore transitions of colors from blue to orange or red to green with side-by-side value shifts from dark to light in each.

These paintings have another interesting feature that is somewhat conceptual and is manifest chromatically. In particular, these paintings have a visual rhythm and nod to musical influences. The opposing grid structures and layered subtle variations of values become gradients of color ranging vertically or horizontally from desaturated to fully saturated hues. Such value transitions and chromatic intensities are evocative of volume in music with passages containing crescendos. Maybe a form of synesthesia, but given the similarity between the mathematical structure of music and Wurmfeld’s grids, it is not surprising. Looking at the new large 72 x 144-inch canvas it looks like a musical score. In many ways the painting also could be a visualization of an orchestra or choir, so a visualization of a musical composition is not really a stretch.

Sanford Wurmfeld

Sanford Wurmfeld (b. 1942 in Bronx, NY) has exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions since the late 1960s. His work is included in collections worldwide, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Karl Ernst Osthaus-Museum, Sprengel Museum, and Espace de l’Art Concret, and the City of Hannover Germany.

In 2013, he was the subject of a major 45-year survey exhibition entitled Sanford Wurmfeld: Color Visions, 1966-2013 curated by William C. Agee at Hunter College/Times Square Gallery, NYC. He has also presented solo exhibitions at Neuberger Museum of Art, Tibor de Nagy Gallery, Galerie Denise Rene, Susan Caldwell Gallery, David Richards Gallery, Minus Space, Bard College, Maxwell Davidson Gallery, Karl Ernst Osthaus-Museum (Germany), Mucsarnok Kunsthalle (Hungary), Talbot-Rice Gallery (Scotland), and Ewing Museum Gallery (Knoxville, TN).

After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1964 with a BA in Art History, Wurmfeld moved to Rome and spent two years painting before returning to New York where he has lived and worked ever since. In 1968, he was the youngest artist included in the landmark exhibition Art of the Real 1948-68 curated by Eugene Goossen at the Museum of Modern Art, NY. The exhibition traveled for the next two years to the Grand Palais (France), Kunsthaus (Switzerland), and The Tate Gallery (London, England). Wurmfeld’s other museum group exhibitions include the Carnegie International, American Academy of Arts and Letters, National Academy Museum, Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, Dayton Art Museum, Akron Art Museum, Allentown Art Museum, Long Beach Museum of Art, New Bedford Art Museum, Karl Ernst Osthaus-Museum (Germany), and Espace de l’Art Concret (France), and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Buenos Aires (Argentina).

Complementing his studio practice, Wurmfeld has lectured and written extensively on the history of color, painting, and abstraction. He has received awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, City University of New York, and Dartmouth College.

In addition to his artistic work, Wurmfeld taught in the Department of Art at Hunter College from 1967-2012, where he educated and mentored countless generations of artists. Originally invited to join the faculty by artists Tony Smith, Ray Parker and critic Eugene Goossen, Wurmfeld was Chairman of the department from 1978-2006 and founded the renowned Hunter MFA program in 1981.

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