Sunday, February 15, 2009


As with static form, a static color composition is either composed of bodies at rest or forces in equilibrium. This is (now) a basic idea and any student of Albers is familiar with it: put x next to y to make it look like z. The purple in this gray draws out the yellow in that green, and they either balance each other or create a friction that, like the best asymmetrical designs, conveys the impression of a whole. So why are color combinations so difficult? Perhaps our approach to color is part of the problem. ¶From childhood we have the tertiary color wheel beaten into us as an unequivocal truth but, however enjoyable that beating might be, I have always held its fundamental proposition suspect. Nothing I have observed in nature suggests that color is an additive process. Although we are able to mix the three "primary colors" into an apparently infinite spectrum, consider approaching the color wheel from the opposite direction. Rather than viewing color as an act of primeval creation consider color as a product of Babel, that once there was a great scattering, a centrifugal propulsion from which we are still returning. When viewed from this perspective, arriving at a harmonious color combination is not a creative act occuring in a vacuum, but a re-assembling of something that was shattered and now is made whole. Consider the possibility that the only primary color is brown, and that red, yellow, and blue are extruded from it as copper ore is from the earth.