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Review of reviews: Art

Color Chart: Reinventing Color From 1950 to Today

Color Chart: Reinventing Color From 1950 to TodayMuseum of Modern Art, New YorkThrough May 12

You don’t often encounter an exhibition “so simple and right” as Color Chart, said Daniel Kunitz in The New York Sun. This bold new show at the Modern brings together works by 44 artists from over the course of nine decades. All are based on the commercial color chart: that grid of color gradients used to sell everything from paint chips to nail polish. The exhibit begins with Marcel Duchamp’s painting Tu M (1918), a narrow canvas that portrays “a hand pointing to a sheet of paper, which floats above small rows of color samples.” In 1951, Ellsworth Kelly pieced together his Colors for a Large Wall from 64 single-color, square-foot paintings. From there, the theme spread rapidly into works by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, and John Chamberlain. “Despite the programmatic nature of many of the works on view, a smattering of quirky, lighthearted pieces” stand out. Sol LeWitt turns a Crayola 12-pack into “an unexpectedly beautiful abstraction,” while Cory Arcangel and Bas Jan Adler create video art in primary hues.

According to the show’s curators, artists used out-of-the-can color “to cure art of its romantic tendencies by embracing a machine-made look,” said Ariella Budick in Newsday. But in fact the best works here are “loaded with personal significance.” Consider Jim Dine’s arrays of colored squares, which “look a little like sets of chips picked up from the local paint shop.” Far from being formal experiments, they’re sentimental references to a youth spent working in his family’s hardware store. Similarly, “the exhibit’s linchpin,” Robert Rauschenberg’s Rebus, employs store-bought paint and comic strips. The use of commercial artifacts hardly makes these finished works seem anonymous. “Instead, they add up to a cross section of Rauschenberg’s unconscious.”

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