David Richard Gallery is pleased to announce the presentation Robert Swain, Color: Theory and Affect, on view December 9, 2017 – January 20, 2018 at the Gallery’s newest venue in Harlem, located at 211 East 121st Street, New York, NY 10035, P: (212) 882-1705. There will be an opening reception with the artist on Saturday, December 9, 2017 from 1:00 – 7:00 PM. A digital catalogue will be available online.
For the past 50 years, Robert Swain has dedicated his career to a rigorous study of color sensations and their effect on the human experience. Swain’s paintings offer visual, cognitive, and sensuous experiences, while elevating our understanding of color phenomenon and perception. This heightened awareness of seeing and unique experience of feeling color occurs when Swain’s works are viewed in person with attentive, patient observation. Perceptual effects will begin to emerge slowly, rearranging themselves as the constant flow of color’s energy changes and moves in response to Swain’s compositions and palettes.
The perceptual and psychological implications of color are the result of Swain’s many varied combinations of particular hues, value transitions, degrees of saturation, color adjacency, overall organization and scale. These elements are then activated by the viewer through distance, light source and duration of observation. While accessible by all who can see color, the perceptual effects and emotional content vary with each viewer resulting in a unique and intensely personal experience. This reciprocity, between viewer and painting, becomes the heart and soul of Swain’s work.
Swain’s seemingly unlimited palette and unique vocabulary of color derives from the personal color system that he devised in the 1970s. By dividing color into 30 hues, 33 value steps, and up to 9 degrees of saturation, Swain created a catalogue with almost 2,200 more components than the well-known Munsell color system. This extensive variety in color deepened Swain’s knowledge and aided in the formulation of his nuanced color relationships. In the 1980s and 1990s, Swain broke down his compositional structure into different sized modules, creating grids within grids, still set in relation to one another but altered in size and scale, order and configuration. These works, on view in this exhibition, allow the viewer to experience multiple color phenomena within one pictorial plane. His largest canvases activate the viewer’s peripheral vision, sensing the edges of the work and allowing the colors to blend, creating an immersive and meditative experience.
Groundwork for the study of color as an autonomous element (rather than in service of symbolism of signification) was set by Paul Seurat in the 1880s and taken up with a renewed vigor in the twentieth century by Modern masters such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Josef Albers, and Frank Stella. Swain is a critical figure in this history, coupling the aesthetic and empirical approaches in his quest to understand the phenomenological experience of color.