From the Renaissance to the 20th century, statues from ancient Greece and Rome were widely believed to be intentionally white. It wasn’t until after scientists and archaeologist discovered small amounts of pigment that they concluded these works were brightly colored. It changed people’s perception of the ancient world and future scholarship. Imagine Portrait Bust of a Bearded Man and Head of Girl from 2nd century CE painted with skin tones and brown hair. An artwork that lacks color can carry the same impact of a colorful one. Louise Nevelson’s sculptural landscape, Dawn’s Presence – Two Columns is assembled using discarded wood. The sculpture’s cohesiveness is conveyed through the use of white. Mary Corse applied white acrylic paint and glass microspheres to her untitled 1969 painting. If one looks closely, the painting shimmers. Finally, the stark black and white prints from José Chávez Morado’s Vida Nocturna de la Ciudad de México series capture dense noir-esque scenes in early twentieth-century Mexico City.
Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, 1973 (detail)
Acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, six panels
The Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin
The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States, a joint initiative of the Trustees of the Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection and the National Gallery of Art, with generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, 2008