Jan 25, 2013 - May 19, 2013

Red/Yellow/Blue (and Black and White)

Clyfford Still Museum

Clyfford Still as Colorist
Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, Colorado
Red/Yellow/Blue installation view - red gallery, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-272, Clyfford Still, 1950, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum

Among the characteristics that define Clyfford Still’s paintings — dramatic textures, monumental scale, and jagged, vertical forms — Still’s use of color contributes substantially to a viewer’s experience.  This exhibition highlights the importance – and possible meaning – of color throughout Still’s career.

Still’s interest in high-key color — red, yellow, and blue, in particular — is apparent in very early works where landscape and clothing are reduced to these “primary colors.” Acutely knowledgeable about both color theory and the history of art, Still was keenly attuned to how artists used color in both modern as well as much earlier times.  While Still never acknowledged an overt color symbolism for his work (for example, blue implying melancholy or red equating violence), this exhibition raises essential questions about the role and function of color in his art.

Each color theme in this exhibition includes at least one pre-abstract expressionist period work (before around 1945) as well as a “late-period” work (made after his move to Maryland in 1961), allowing for a fuller picture of the prominent role color played over Still's five-decade career. Still’s use of color also represents the ways he influenced, and was in dialogue with artists such as Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, his closest allies in the late 1940s.

PH-18, Clyfford Still, 1955, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-644, Clyfford Still, 1934, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-228, Clyfford Still, 1935, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-1107, Clyfford Still, 1951, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-1107 (1951) is an example in which an earlier drawing (in this case PH-517, a small, 1949 gouache on paper) was later made into a large-scale canvas.  The composition of both works is nearly identical, as is the deep field of red that dominates both.
PH-385, Clyfford Still, 1949, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-1034, Clyfford Still, 1973, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
Red/Yellow/Blue installation view - yellow gallery, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-71, Clyfford Still, 1948, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum

"I want to be in total command of the colors, as in an orchestra. They are voices.”                                                    -Clyfford Still

PH-129, Clyfford Still, 1949, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-374, Clyfford Still, 1951, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-340, Clyfford Still, 1935, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-434, Clyfford Still, 1938, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-1074, Clyfford Still, 1956, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-163, Clyfford Still, 1954, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-893, Clyfford Still, 1973, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
Red/Yellow/Blue installation view - blue gallery, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum

“Color is an integral part of the conception. The works are conceived in color and do not exist amply without it.  Each picture takes on the color it demands.”

                                                    -Clyfford Still

PH-160, Clyfford Still, 1957, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-296, Clyfford Still, 1935, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-344, Clyfford Still, 1937, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-268, Clyfford Still, 1955, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-247, Clyfford Still, 1951, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-1039, Clyfford Still, 1977, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-223, Clyfford Still, 1956, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
Red/Yellow/Blue installation view - black gallery, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-1102, Clyfford Still, 1948, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum

"Black was never a color of death or terror for me. I think of it as warm—and generative.”                                    

                                                   -Clyfford Still

PH-756, Clyfford Still, 1943, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-949, Clyfford Still, 1951, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-397, Clyfford Still, 1948-49, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-1078, Clyfford Still, 1951, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-246 (1951–52) is the first of two versions (what Still called “replicas”) of a nearly all black, roughly 9 x 13 foot canvas punctured by a striking, expressionistic vertical line created by exposed, bare canvas. The second version, now in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, was dubbed “the Black Monster” by Still and was shown at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in the landmark exhibition, 15 Americans, in 1952.
PH-235, Clyfford Still, 1944, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-929, Clyfford Still, 1974, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
Red/Yellow/Blue installation view - white gallery, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-1180, Clyfford Still, 1949, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-445 (The Cripple), Clyfford Still, 1929-33, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-65, Clyfford Still, 1952, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-31, Clyfford Still, 1951, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-31 (1951) has the same composition as the masterwork PH-247 (1951) — often referred to as “Big Blue” due to its 15-foot expanse of cobalt blue — which is shown earlier in the exhibition. In PH-31, the blue is replaced by bare canvas, and the flat black form at the center of PH-247 is rendered here in bright white. Still’s use of essentially the same structure in both paintings suggests how much he believed color was essential in determining the ultimate experience of the artwork.
PH-439, Clyfford Still, 1964, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
PH-858, Clyfford Still, 1972, From the collection of: Clyfford Still Museum
 
Credits: Story

Curator — Dean Sobel, Director, Clyfford Still Museum

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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