When color can be a physical presence…

It has been more than four decades since artist Sam Gilliam soaked folded canvas, free from the stretcher’s frame, in swirls of paint. It was a process of chance; discovery rather than certainty. Materials related to surface with new energy and presence. Since then, Gilliam and artists Jedediah Caesar, Nicole Cherubini, Jacqueline Humphries, Dona Nelson, and Shinique Smith have continued to explore the physical texture, gravity, and density of pigment and surface as an exciting zone of interaction.

In “Surface Matters,” color is not passively brushed, but actively oozes, solidifies, drapes, or punctures. Brightly hued strings hang or lace back and forth. Glazes encrust surfaces that cradle their wall supports. Toned resin hardens as a form that is sliced to reveal surface patterns hidden within. Liquid stains penetrate canvas to be seen on the other side, or prompt loose cloth to ripple with new dimension. These interactions offer the surface as a portal to something deeper—an abstract energy, emotion, or image made concrete.

Above: Jacqueline Humphries, Antic (detail), 1994. Oil on linen. Gift of Robert W. Bingham. Reproduced with permission.