Nothing in art rivals the power of color, the sharpest tool in the artist’s toolbox. It is potent even to the point of seeming dangerous. Josef Albers’ class at Yale began with a stern warning about inconstancy: “Color deceives continually.”
Color vs. line divides art history. Delacroix, Rothko, Kandinsky, Matisse and others fearlessly pushed color to the forefront of composition. Jung, Wittgenstein, Joyce and Pynchon explored its verbal complexities, while Debussy, Berlioz and Wagner set it to music. What is it about color that moves us so directly? The seamless connection to emotions and memories and the ecstasy of extreme optical effects test the bounds of conscious control. Maybe the danger factor is part of the pleasure. “What is color?” asked the philosopher Roland Barthes. “A type of bliss.”
Join Charles A. Riley, director of the Nassau Museum and author of Color Codes, for an interdisciplinary inquiry into the perils and pleasure of color.