Color Fields: 21st Century Man, Heroic and Sublime
Series. Oil on canvas, 48" x 48" each
"We are reasserting man’s natural desire for the exalted, for a concern with our relationship to the absolute emotions…The image we produce is the self evident one of revelation, real and concrete, that can be understood by anyone who will look at it without the nostalgic glasses of history."
"The Profit of Color! Color experts from the Color Marketing Group share their success stories," The Color Marketing Group (CMG) 'Color Sells, and the Right Colors Sell Better.'
The Supreme Court held in the 1995 case of Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., 115 S.Ct. 1300 (1995) that the green-gold color of a dry cleaning press pad can function as a trademark. The court's landmark decision certified that color itself, apart from any particular graphic representation, may be patented and therefore legally owned as private property. In the years following the 1995 Supreme Court decision corporations have raced to trademark their brand colors resulting in a series of color trademark infringement cases. Color Fields is a series of oil paintings depicting several currently patented colors of the spectrum. Colors include Barbie pink, UPS brown, Coca Cola red, Target red, The Home Depot orange, T-Mobile magenta and Tiffany blue.
When Barnet Newman's painting Vir Heroicus Sublimis debuted in 1951 Newman invited viewers to stand only inches away from the canvas because it is precisely at this range that the enormous painting engulfs the viewer’s field of vision thereby eclipsing the surrounding world. And yet, However engrossing, intoxicating and pleasantly debilitating an uninterrupted color field might be for an artist or an especially enthusiastic museum visitor, the fact remains that falling headlong into a sea of Red, will likely get you promptly removed from the premises by security guards. Perhaps Newman's innovation of "zips" serves as a safety device - a visual system of restraints - in the event just such a transcendental moment befalls an unsuspecting art lover within the hallowed halls of MOMA. Leave it to the "zips" to snap us back to the thingness of the thing we're looking at - a painting on a wall in a museum on 11 West 53 Street.
However remote from the world of marketing and capitalism Newman and many other modernist painters and institutions might have thought the experience of their art would be, the lofty goal of transporting the viewer into sublimity through a total immersion in the product (painting) seems very much at home in the current field of branding and color marketing. Perhaps we only fail to see this common purpose because paintings are considered Fine Art (with all of its lofty pseudo-spiritual goals) while advertising is seen as commerce. Anyone who makes this silly distinction should take a look at what a Barnett Newman sells for these days. It is quite apropos in this context that artists can only hope to find success in the contemporary art world after developing a consistent visual style, a trademark if you will, thereby confirming one’s place in the art commodity market.