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# 54

20th century
193.4 cm x 152.6 cm (76 1/8 in. x 60 1/16 in.)

Roy Colmer (London, England, 1935 – 2014, Los Angeles, California) Primary

Object Type: painting
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Acrylic on cotton duck
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Claudia Colmer, 2002
               Accession Number:                2002.2837             
Object Description: Although Roy Comer is perhaps best known for his films and photographs, we might think of his paintings from the early- to mid-1970s as precursors to his work in film. Inspired in part by his instructor Almir Mavignier, Colmer sought to convey a sense of instability and fluctuation in his paintings. #54 and #56 are among the last works on canvas the artist produced before committing to a life as a filmmaker (and eventually a photographer). Colmer first began to experiment with film in 1971, while he was in residence at the University of Iowa’s Intermedia Program. There he learned that in film he could capture what had so far eluded him in painting: real (as opposed to virtual) movement. As Colmer stated in a 1975 interview, “There’s no way of arriving at real movement with painting. With film and video you automatically have that. So for a kinetic painter to go to film seems to be a natural transition.” Colmer’s paintings of the 1970s share a great deal with his films of the same period. Most importantly, both impart to color what one writer described as “an almost liquid quality.” This is especially true of #54 and #56. Each work is comprised of crisp horizontal stripes that Colmer created with the aid of masking tape. There is a relative consistency in color as the viewer scans the paintings from top to bottom. Irregular fields of blue, white, and pink occupy #54, while misshapen clouds of yellow, blue, and red occupy #56. However, the stripes change dramatically in hue, value, and intensity as the viewer scans the paintings from left to right. One set of stripes in #56, for instance, gradually metamorphoses from rust to turquoise to pale pink. Colmer’s adroit handling of color generates a rippling effect—his canvases appear to undulate, surging out towards the viewer in some places and ebbing away from the viewer in others. In addition to the swell of a wave as it approaches the shore, they also call to mind, as one viewer noted, “the soft-focus visual crackle of a maleficent color TV.” Colmer has said of his paintings and films of the 1970s, “they are all involved with instant results, fast ways of creating images.” To this end, the artist used an industrial spray gun to paint both #54 and #56. The spray gun allowed him to work quickly and efficiently, but it also had the result of erasing evidence of the artist’s touch or, as Colmer himself put it, “shed[ding] the signature of the artist."

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