One of the six original Washington Color School artists, Paul Reed (1919-2015) explored color using diluted acrylic paint applied directing onto raw canvas. Reed painted in luminous, vivid colors with hard-edge forms and would come to develop a new series of work approximately every decade. Color, Shape, and Form at Bethesda Fine Art will comment on the role of these three elements through an examination of Reed’s works in conjunction with other Washington Color School artists.
Howard Mehring (1931-1978) favored sharp edges and rich tonal variations in his works, while Gene Davis (1920-1985) often used similar, repetitive colors in his vertical-striped paintings. Color Field painter Sam Gilliam (b. 1933) experimented with materials such as handmade paper, aluminum, and plastic, creating mixed-media collages rooted in abstraction. Kenneth Victor Young (1933-2017) painted his varied orb-shaped motifs on the floor, pouring paint onto unprimed canvas, while the compositions of Cynthia Bickley-Green are inspired by the spot of light produced by direction stimulation of the visual system and external forms in the visual system. The Washington Color School artists played with color and paint application to create forms and emphasize the optical experience. While works of the movement did not often reference concrete subject matter, the artists were influenced by the changes in society and culture in the 1960s.
The repetitive format of Reed’s works allowed him to explore the relationships between colors - how they vibrate, complement, and contrast - with purity and precision. He also considered form by working with canvases of different shapes. Reed’s works can be found in collections of the National Gallery of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Dallas Museum of Art, and the Museum of FIne Arts in Boston, among many others.