Seeing in Color at Huntington Beach Art Center
Through June 16th
By Evan Senn
It is said that in human history, our ability to see color has evolved alongside our ability to categorize and discuss it. Scientists have studied that throughout our documentation of what we have observed in history—especially as it relates to colors and descriptions of nature—has left out specific colors. Documents like Homer’s Odyssey, the ancient Icelandic sagas, Hindu Vedic hymns, the Koran, the ancient Hebrew Bible, ancient Chinese stories and the like make reference to colors in the way they describe the natural world, but they do not make any mention of the color blue. This evidence has convinced scientists that these cultures did not have a word for blue at the time, and therefore they may not have seen it an individual color. The ancient Egyptians are one of the only early civilizations that had a word for the color blue. Without a word for a color, without a way of identifying it as different, we do not notice what’s unique about it or that it’s unique at all. Hence, without finding a way to relate one color to another, through visual or written language, many colors may never appear to us. It is within the visual conversation and comparison that we find distinctive existence. The discourse we create about color enlivens the colors themselves through our experience of and with them.
The visual exchange between colors and our perception of those colors—on their own or together with others—is the base for color theory and remains at the heart of art observation and appreciation. The power of color is well known in human culture—we utilize colors to speak truths without involving any written or spoken language. Every human-made object has to deal with this unyielding power, working with or against it to communicate effectively. Every artist has to make monumental decisions with regard to color and the power held within. Curators Suzanne Walsh and Jim Ellsberry have used their love and appreciation for this power and perception to pull together 21 different contemporary artists who are dealing with color and power in fascinating ways. Each object in their collective gathering of color at the Huntington Beach Art Center (HBAC), in “COLOR VISION,” approaches the pigments, the energies, the applications, the emotive qualities, and the symbolism inherent in color to open up a larger conversation about out human experience in the physical world.
Walking through the calm yet electric gathering of art and color in this large white space by the ocean, each visitor is immediately drawn to something specific, like a magnet pulling them toward a work of art. Whether it’s the red pigment of Caesar Alzate Jr.’s painting popping off the wall to meet you with motion and weight, or Connie DK Lane’s rainbow-referencing string archway asking to cover you in color as you walk, or the bright neon tubes of Adela Andea’s wall sculptures calling you toward them like a moth is drawn to a flame—the works in “COLOR VISION” are hypnotic and relentless.
Standing front and center as you enter HBAC, like a lamassu at a citadel gate, Bret Price’s blue swirling sculpture greets visitors with an energetic introduction. Price bends color into whimsy with his metal sculptures. He curls and folds steel beams and pipes as if they were ribbons or straws, creating new non-utilitarian lives for structural metal, merging color and material to create something unique. This fascinating and intense process manipulates the metal material as it plays human perception, placing a sense of malleability on normally uncompromising objects. Price offers multiple objects to “COLOR VISION,” each with a completely different experience and seduction.
Andrea Welton’s abstract stained paintings are striking visual representations of human souls, peeking out from a material reality. Standing in front of one of Welton’s paintings feels as though you are standing inside of yourself, feeling human emotion through color and movement—slow and sensual, each emotion forms its own perfectly imperfect shape, choosing to either interact with or ignore a neighboring emotion. The carnal minimalism in her layered paintings blend a variety of physical materials and techniques into a kind of ephemeral organism, embodying the dichotomy of living and dying, of feeling and thinking, or of creating and destroying—it is constant movement made stagnant.
Victoria MacMillan’s large-scale urban landscape paintings are immersive and surreal. Greeting them in the furthest gallery in the space, along with a variety of more experimental expressions of color in art, transports you to another time and place—so similar to reality but empty of other humans and full of colorful growth. Like a mold or moss growing by a still body of water, bright colors creep into MacMillan’s scenes slowly, first at the edges and then gradually consuming every surface in colorful ecstasy. You feel as if an acid trip has gone exactly as desired, swallowing you whole and bleeding the edges of the periphery into pure blissful color, allowing you to endure this world for just a bit longer, giving in to the beauty only you can see.
With 15 other amazing and colorful artists represented at HBAC’s “COLOR VISION,” it becomes clear with every new encounter that color theory is real and essential, and that your soul is replenished and rejuvenated by simply observing and considering these artistic interpretations of color and life.
“COLOR VISION” is on view at Huntington Beach Art Center
538 Main Street, Huntington Beach, until June 16, 2018.