Reds at Mnuchin Gallery
Mnuchin Gallery May 23rd, 2018
For thousands of years red has been prized for its striking effect. Historically, its value stemmed from the sheer difficulty of obtaining the color itself, as only a few species of insects and plants produced it. A popular extraction method involved drying the cochineal bug, and since 70,000 insects were required for a single pound of pigment a highly competitive system of piracy developed among European countries bringing it from the New World. Its scarcity made it a luxury reserved for the only the wealthiest. Despite its availability today, red remains a color used to demarcate and distinguish objects of note.
This exhibition traces the myriad ways artists have harnessed red’s force across abstraction and figuration, painting and sculpture, to achieve remarkable proof of the color’s universal resonance. In paintings by Bacon, Bourgeois, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol, in which human figures or faces appear against intensely red backdrops, the color evokes narratives of love, violence, and tragedy for the paintings’ subjects. Other artists use the color to create immersive, meditative experiences for the viewer, whether by bathing him in red light, as in Dan Flavin’s untitled (to Sabine and Holger), 1966-71, or by confronting him with an immense red void, as in Robert Motherwell’s Open No. 153: In Scarlet with White Line, 1970. In works such as Arshile Gorky’s Agony, 1947, and Yayoi Kusama’s No. Red A 1960, 1960, the artists’ use of red can be interpreted as an expression of their individual psychological experiences, whereas Franz Kline and Rothko’s monumental abstractions speak to a more universal “scale of human feeling, the human drama.” Eliminating such gesture and expression from painting, Josef Albers and Ad Reinhardt pair subtle, almost imperceptibly varied shades of red to create conceptual studies on color itself.
Reds comprises twenty-seven masterworks on loan from museums, foundations, and private collections. It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue authored by Clayton Press.
Contact Allison Brant for more information about The Brant Foundation’s loan program.