Like most people, when I was a kid I loved playing with a kaleidoscope. Pointing it at different light sources and twisting the chamber caused a morphing geometric mandala to take shape before my eyes, magically shifting sunshine and the colored bits inside into a series of hypnotizing designs. The same part of me that was enamored with a kaleidoscope is the same part of me that loves juicy colored highly geometric contemporary art.
As the highly influential artist and color theorist of the Bauhaus, Josef Albers, says so succinctly in his classic book Interaction of Color, “As with tones in music, so with color- dissonance is as desirable as its opposite, consonance.” The dance of tension and fluidity in an ever changing kaleidoscopic pattern is a rhythm of light and hue, which there is an abundance of in contemporary art. There are so many artists out there these days who use these components in their visual art, however the five artists included here emerge with unique strength, vision and technical ability that is worth noting. Artists include: Dalek (James Marshall), Maya Hayuk, Richard Colman, Amanda Airs and Jeff Depner
James Marshall, who is most known as Dalek, is a brilliant composer of light, pigment and line. His work has long been known for its crisp edges, flawless execution and vibrant color palette. In the past several years Marshall has focused increasingly on large installations and murals, as well as a number of monochromatic works with subtle shifts that imply dimension. When I visited him at his studio at Hurley Headquarters (where he is a resident artist and designer) in Costa Mesa a while back, he had a huge pile of hundreds of color swatches from paint manufacturer that he was strategically arranging in a grid. Marshall is constantly playing with color design, studying the harmonies and environments that emerge between different pigment combinations- and his devotion to this comes across in all of his work.
Maya Hayuk’s work, whether seen in a huge mural, such as the one pictured here from Wynwood Walls in Miami, or in a museum installation at the Hammer Museum, is easily identifiable and impossible to miss. Hayuk’s psychedelic orchestrations of bright juicy hues and interweaving brush strokes range from chaotic compositions that enlist the disjointed grids and layers in pinballing the viewers attention, to symmetrical highly repetitive compositions in which the layering of the chosen pigments provide an Op-Art effect. Though her patterned lines are broad even sweeps, there are often tons of paint drips that lend a strong sense of fluidity to her works, no matter the scale. Hayuk’s works buzz with energy and feel extremely dynamic while perfectly solid.
Artist Richard Colman has created a whole new trippy universe with his works for several years. With a quirky spacey folk-art energy and repetitive use of tiny characters and figures in disjointed environments, Colman often weaves prismatic bands of color through out his works. Some of his paintings, as pictured here, are more design based, yet even in the absence of an implied scene, there is generally the presence of his oft-used eyes woven into the composition. One of my favorite elements that Colman works with is his interrupted pseudo quilt-like patterns of diamond and triangle shapes which are a beautiful balance of neutral and rainbow colors.
Australian artist Amanda Airs has spent many years developing colorful geometric experiences within large spaces. One of the things I love about Airs’ work is that while a lot of colorful geometrically patterned art work these days takes the viewers eyes into a new space, Airs developes her work in such a way that viewers can actually physically exist within her created space, and even makes the works interactive for viewers, as seen here in the images above and below. In her artist statement, Airs says, “Through installation-based practices I explore the extension of painting in space. Fabricated materials such as nylon wire and synthetic wool are arranged and suspended in space and are used to mimic formal qualities present in flat abstract painting. With colour, line and angle I investigate optical illusion, in particular perception of motion and spatial ambiguity. My investigation into optical illusion has resulted in creating experiential installations where the viewer must pass through the space to perceive the optical effects. The presence of the viewer in the space has led me to question the relationship between the figure (the viewer) and the abstract installation.”
Jeff Depner has a much looser and more intuitive way of developing his paintings than the other artists featured here. Highly textural with a vast range of muted tones and more vibrant hues, Depner’s works feel like a fusion of color theory, abstract painting and geometric design. There’s a sense of repetition in his works that feels unfinished or obscured at times, which lends a compelling intensity to the paintings. The marks and shapes of color establish rules of format and then break their own rules, increasing a sense of harmony and interaction. The artist often creates multiple works based on the same loose composition, altering the colors in each piece and shifting the level of deconstruction in each work in sequences that demonstrate his deft use of color.