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ColorField - March 2014

In celebration of The Art League's 60th Anniversary in 2014, the Gallery is revisiting and reflecting upon the major art movements from the last six decades.


March 12–April 7, 2014
Timothy App, Professor of Art, MICA
Reception: Thursday, March 13, 6:30–8:00 pm

Color Blocking, acrylic/mixed media by Octavia Frazier, awarded the Evelyn Turner Award by juror Timothy App.

Links: Exhibit program | View on Flickr

Artists are encouraged to revisit this method of abstract painting in which color is emphasized and form and surface are de-emphasized. This exhibit honors the Washington Color School movement and its founders – many who taught at The Art League in the 1970s and have influenced members past and present.

ColorField events

During this exhibit, The Art League Gallery will host two speakers giving talks on the Color Field movement and the Washington Color School. Joyce McCarten is an Art League instructor and wife of the late Washington Color School artist Donald McCarten, and Timothy App is an abstract painter, professor of art at MICA, and juror for this exhibit.

here to learn about the two ColorField lectures.

Juror's Dialogue

As a two-time veteran juror at The Art League and a professor of art, Timothy App was well equipped to select artwork for this second in the 60th anniversary series of exhibits. Following an enthusiastic response by Art League members, his job was to choose an exhibit of about 100 works from over 400 submitted — and he started with first impressions.

“I see it in a split second,” App said after the jury process was over. There are different levels of engagement with the artwork, and for the viewer, there’s a lot of weight placed on that “immediate encounter,” he said. In that moment, he said he was looking for a sense of completeness, or wholeness — not necessarily finish, but a sense that the parts worked together to create an effective whole.

App’s other primary consideration was to honor the theme — that meant color had to be the subject, without political, social, or even personal content. The successful artworks managed to get the color to “speak” visually, he said.

The other component of the Color Field movement, the field, represents a different set of compositional rules, almost an “anti-composition,” App said. Artists used the entire field with individual forms yielding to the surface as a whole.

While creating a show inspired by the Color Field artists, App had to be flexible, expanding his definition to include similar qualities of “painterliness” by artists working in other media. Photography, for example, is more removed from the present and the direct application of paint, but photographers (and sculptors, and others) could still be influenced by the ideas of the Color Field movement.

This exhibit diverges from the historical movement in other ways, like scale, App said. While Color Field paintings are famous for being larger than life, and the work in this exhibit is smaller, the most successful work still has that quality of expansiveness. The most important thing, he said, is what a piece does with color to pull him in, visually and emotionally.

Abstraction wasn’t an absolute requirement for a “yes” from the juror, but App said many very good directly representational works didn’t make it into the exhibit. Some pieces — “probably more than I realized” — originated from real-world observation, but the emphasis needed to be on color. Another common thread between some unselected works was an emphasis on value (light and dark) instead of color. App said he wasn’t looking for the full range of the rainbow in each piece, but effective use of the color was of paramount importance.

App advised artists to carefully consider framing and presentation. Like a title, which Marcel Duchamp called the “invisible color,” the presentation of a work needs to be “as critically considered as the work itself,” App said.

“A work of art lives or dies by its context and presentation, and the frame is part of that consideration,” he said.

Like other jurors, App’s advice to artists was simple: keep working. When you start something, carry it through to the end. “Hit it hard and wish it well.” And listen carefully to criticism, take what you need from it, and leave the rest behind.

App named 13 honorable mentions and three award winners: Color Blocking by Octavia Frazier won the Evelyn Turner Award, Harmonies in Pinks and Blue by Linda Lowery won the Juror’s Choice Award, and Red Lights Construction by Victoria Cowles won the Adam Wishnow Award for Creativity and Innovation.

The first two works, both acrylic paintings, exemplified the qualities App was looking for. “If I can return to it again and again with certainty, then I think it's a good painting,” App said. “That's what I saw in those paintings.” For the creativity award, he chose a mixed-media piece that incorporated lights, citing its formal coherence and inventiveness. “It was one of the most daring works in the show,” he said.

Timothy App has taught drawing and painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art since 1990 and has been actively exhibiting art for decades longer. Last spring, his work was the subject of a 45-year retrospective at the American University Museum, and most recently his work is part of a group exhibition at VisArts at Rockville, open through April 20. That exhibition is titled “Finding the Thread,” and includes other members of the abstract painting group, Ab8, centered in Baltimore.

Promotional support for our 60th Anniversary has been generously provided by the Alexandria Marketing Fund.



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