I’ve never liked acrylic paint. When I’ve used it I’ve been so aware of its plasticity, peeling it off the tube’s screw top and the palette. The colours look so dull and monotone to me, and it dries too quickly to blend and push around.
I got married recently and we went to New York as part of our honeymoon. We stayed at The Jane in the West Village, right round the corner from the Whitney Museum of American Art which a New Yorker friend had recommended to me. We were there right before the Whitney’s Biennial (apparently a big deal) so the exhibitions on display were from their collection. But what a fine collection they have! Here are some of my personal highlights from the exhibition ‘Spilling Over: Painting Color in the 1960’s’. I’m so glad I went because it opened my eyes to what acrylic can do.
“This exhibition gathers paintings from the 1960s and early 1970s that inventively use bold, saturated, and even hallucinatory color to activate perception. During this period, many artists adopted acrylic paint—a newly available, plastic-based medium—and explored its expansive technical possibilities and wider range of hues. Color Field painters poured paint and stained unprimed canvas, dramatizing painting’s materiality and visual force. Painters associated with Op art deployed pattern, geometric arrangement, and intense color combinations to emphasize that vision is a commingling of physical response and unconscious association. At the same historical moment, an emerging generation of artists of color and women explored color’s capacity to articulate new questions about perception, specifically its relation to race, gender, and the coding of space. The exhibition looks to the divergent ways color can be equally a formal problem and a political statement.”