The word “orange” was not used to describe color until the 16th century. The color was commonly referred to as “yellow-red” or “red-yellow” before the English-speaking world was exposed to the fruit. Color is intangible; it only exists in language and has to encompass individual perspectives. For example, studies have shown that, due to subtle differences in genetic makeup, there is a nearly infinite number of ways to see red alone. Color also carries the weight of history. As a result, meaning can change when seen through a contemporary lens. In the following selection of works, viewers are invited to reflect on the different ways artists tackle color. Some use it to their advantage while others omit to highlight form, line, and texture.
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