Color Bias  GROUP SHOW

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Witczak McCaffrey Hough Kunz Grafelman Nehrling

Color bias in visual art is a subjective and unquantifiable prejudice towards a particular chromatic strategy or color criterion – a hidden agenda that rules color choices and influences perception.  It is unlikely that this bias is innate; but rather the result of a combination of factors, including cultivated aesthetics and color theory, it is subject to inherent variables and deviations of visual systems and often at the mercy of the subconscious.  That color bias is a clear case of nurture over nature is evinced by its malleability; once a bias is revealed and recognized, it can be confronted, challenged on its merits and changed. 

“Color Bias,” is a group show at Zg Gallery focusing on six artist’s use of color in contemporary abstract painting.  Although formally related by their strong, at times confrontational use of color, it is not the stated goal of these artists to break down barriers imposed by color bias. But by using complex colors in challenging, sometimes jarring combinations, each of the selected artists has shown a degree of flexibility and dexterity dealing with the quandary of color, which forces the viewer to question intrinsic concepts of beauty and confront his or her own color bias in the process.


Glenn Grafelman’s colors are not derived from nature, nor are they emotionally driven–instead they are carefully calculated and premeditated choices, exploring the visual weight of color.  Grafelman’s geometric abstractions are deliberate compositions of pattern and repetition, arrangements of tone and intensity.  The application of paint is carefully controlled and executed, although the results are painterly and appear spontaneous.  Glenn Grafelman received his MA from the University of California, Berkley and his BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design.  His work has appeared in numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally.


Steve Hough works within the rigid formalism of monochromatic painting.  Using the non-traditional materials of enamel car paint on a carved Plexiglas support, he has sought to reduce and condense the content of his paintings to the essentials through “a distillation of materiality and a unity of subject and object into the spiritual potential of a homogenous surface.”  Hough often employs a phenomenological use of color, seeking to achieve the tranquility derived from observing nature.  By replicating such naturally occurring incidents as ripples in water or a sunset on the horizon, Hough is attempting to achieve the spiritual potential of art by plumbing the depths of the divine through a creation of a “synthetic sublime.”  Steve Hough received a BA in Visual Arts from Slade College in London, and was the recipient of the British Emerging Artist of the Year Award 1995/96.  He emigrated from England to the United States in 1996.


Anna Kunz refers to color as her “primary device,” used to elicit a visceral response in the viewer.  Insistent shapes and broad gestures are rendered in complex colors and unlikely combinations, her intuitive experimentation with harmony and dissonance often results in an incongruous beauty.  Kunz is intrigued by the, “relationships between the object and the subject, the ambiguous with the metaphorical, the ‘real’ with the illusion” and creates installations that bridge these gaps. She often expands her paintings into the third dimension, breaking free of the picture plane by creating environments based on her abstract compositions.  For this exhibition, Kunz will create a work directly on the walls that will extend into the physical space of the gallery.  The viewer enters into the painting and participates in the ephemeral experience of a temporary work.  Anna Kunz received her MFA from Northwestern University, in Evanston and her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Color is a sensation resulting from light waves stimulating the retina.  Like color itself, Michael McCaffrey’s art takes place on the back of the retina and can be just as elusive. Avoiding objective categorization, McCaffrey’s paintings blur the lines between the monochrome and op art.  His most optically charged works combine intensely saturated analogous colors in a system of concentric circles, resulting in vibrating target paintings that “leave a visceral burn on the retina.”  McCaffrey’s most recent paintings have delved further into the monochrome.  He has reduced the contrast of tone and color in the circles causing them to blend into a subtle variation of the background.  In some instances, his system of concentric circles has congealed into a circular mass at the center of the square PVC panel.  The result is a floating, almost breathing elliptical shape suspended weightlessly in an ethereal space.  Michael McCaffrey received his MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a BA in painting from Glasgow School of Art in Scotland.


Martina Nehrling uses painting as a means of engaging in a dialogue with the visual world, communicating through an emotional use of color.  Nehrling’s palette is distinguished by a euphoric almost manic use of primary and spectral colors banded together in a system of marks across the surface of the painting.  Nehrling states that she uses color, “in order to engage and explore its imprecise language that is suspiciously downplayed as a rule.”  Nehrling’s paintings question the decorative label attributed to these hues and call for a re-examination of those colors previously written off as too pretty and inconsequential.  Martina Nehrling received her MFA from the University of Chicago and her BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Dann Witczak restricts his color schemes to two or three closely related hues and explores the transitions that lead from one color to the next – a practice that at once narrows the initial selection while expanding the overall range of color to seemingly infinite tonal variations.  In several instances, Witczak’s colors are inspired by nature “not by imitating it, but by transforming its essential visual properties into a new experience.”  In these works, his focus is on a direct comparison of man-made vs. organic patterns.  Panels or strips of exotic hardwoods are attached to canvases painted with vivid strokes of intense colors analogous to the grain of the wood.  Witczak does not attempt a trompe l’oeil rendering of his referent, instead his flamboyant colors almost overshadow the natural beauty of the chosen hardwoods.  Dann Witczak received his BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art.

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