Saturated : An Eye for Color

Juror:  Michael Rooks, Wieland Family Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art,
The High Museum of Art (Atlanta, GA ).



Juror’s Statement
Michael Rooks

It is a pleasure to jury the Barrett Art Center’s national juried exhibition “Saturated: An Eye for Color.”  Juried exhibitions offer the opportunity to see diverse works by artists at different stages in their careers or pursuits on an even playing field. And it is rewarding to follow those who continue to evolve, raising the bar in terms of production and finish, pushing their practices in new, surprising directions. With that in mind, works selected were based on individual merit around the exhibition’s broad organizing concept — color, with the hope that adjacencies of work by artists with vastly different approaches will reveal something valuable, surprising and new.  

I’ve never liked the term “colorist” as it confers mysterious orphic powers to an individual, reducing their competence and expertise to something esoteric, inexplicable and alchemical. With regard to the visual arts it means that we use the expression to recognize that color relationships are prominent in what we’re looking at and we generally like what we see.  In other words, the term speaks to the viewer’s desire to understand how color moves them intuitively, intellectually and emotionally in an artist’s work.  The artists selected for this exhibition draw upon a range of experience, knowledge and informed intuition in their individual approaches to color.   

Artists like Carol Ladewig and Alexander Harlan use color as the subject of their work – something that is not static but relational, while others like Stacey Lawrence and Scott Mossman, perhaps in a nod to the chromatic abstraction of Joseph Albers, use color as a medium in and of itself independent of subject. Junyi Liu and Sophia Isaak employ color performatively in the sense that emotional sensitivity to color is instantiated by conscious or subconscious accrual of actions and judgements - why is yellow associated with negative feelings or actions?  Others like Laurel Caryn, Derek Cracco and Cynthia Cooper use color operationally, considering the different neural processes engaged in seeing color and the interpretation of color in the prefrontal cortex.  Artists such as Barbara Masterson and Lisa McCleary employ color as the primary constituent of an emotional esthetic experience, one processed intellectually but deeply felt, while Stephen Kenney and Joseph Kameen use color as a structural building block.  The notion of local color is explored ingeniously by George-Ann Bowers and Jo Ann Chaus whose flirtation with illusion is belied by their faithful obeisance to the natural or actual color of their subjects.  Artists like Won Seok Chang and Ji Hyun Jeon consider synesthesia in their combinations of intense or saturated color, suggesting the electromagnetic radiation of the color fuchsia as a metaphor for a voyeur’s x-ray like violation, or the buzzing sound of hornets that the vibration of bright red in combination with other colors suggests.  

 In spite of a plurality of artistic traditions and attitudes represented in the exhibition, the common denominator in the show is the careful consideration of how color contributes to the construction of meaning in each artists’ work and, how together, they invite a conversation with us that is guaranteed to be lively, animated and expressive.