Wunderkammer of Color, August Edition
Reaching into the color grab-bag this month, we’ve got stories of color entangling itself with science and art, with threads of race relations running through. Shall we?
The pulsing orange diamond above is a study from Karl Gerstner’s 1986 little-known book The Forms of Colour, a nice companion to the history of color wheels we’ve been discussing lately. It’s heady stuff: Gerstner uses developments in geometry since Euclid—chiefly perspective, topologies and fractals—to explore the nearly-infinite range of possible forms, a potential most thoroughly exploited in Islamic art. Layered on top of the formal discussion is a similarly rigorous exploration of color as it relates to form, beginning with Kandinsky’s metaphysics of color and form, where square=red, triangle=yellow, and circle=blue.
Or like Idaho=grape. In a recent COLOURLovers post, Themeleon mined their data as a color-customization tool for Twitter to reveal the colors of the social web. Hackers dig blue, hypnotists mesmerize with fuchsia, and angel investors wear white (while occasionally donning black hats, one can only presume from the Recent Unpleasantness of this stubborn recession).
Dabbling in color usually leads to fully drunken, delicious drowning in it. Case in point: artist Markus Linnenbrink, recently profiled in Sight Unseen. Linnenbrink mixes dry pigments with epoxy resins and drips the resulting rainbow into molds, over canvases or simply lets it run riot over the floor.
Also beautiful for taking the highly unnatural colored Sharpie and rendering startlingly intimate images with it: presenting the work of artist Hollis Brown Thornton.
Moving from the aural penumbra of yesteryear to auras as pseudo-science, The Portrait Machine by photographer Carlo Van de Roer takes photos with an 1970s-era “Polaroid aura” photograph, which supposedly captures the subject’s limbic energies on film as well as their physical essence.
Not so much pseudo-science as actual science gone fanciful, here’s a thought appropriate to the uneasy truce between the Gulf oil leak and the tag-end of hurricane season: coloring the ocean a pure blue, versus its current, plankton-rich green, would dramatically reduce hurricane activity globally. Of course, as Researcher Anand Gnanadesikan of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hastens to explain, that’s the upside. The downside would be removing the wide base of the food triangle for the world’s marine life.
The scientific world is rich with passing-strange color facts. As The Guardian reported not too long ago, scientists have recently invented a new black, a cluster of tiny silver wires even more densely non-reflective than any black before. Its application? Military stealth bombers, or invisibility cloaks, or streetwear for the ultimately disaffected.
The last glints of summer! Here’s one of several unusually colored beaches to hit before the season ends: Hawaii’s Papakolea Beach, whose jade-green sands are the result of an eroding cinder-core eruption nearby.
On the unreal end of science-mixing-with-color, a recently-published study in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review finds that paint-huffers report remarkably different hallucinations depending on the color of the paint. Specifically, chrome-metallic shades produced the most mind-blowing effects.
Social disconnect and color has an extremely long provenance, of course. In a light-hearted but telling commentary on race relations, this Crayola Monologues video taps the current state of American race relations through the metaphor of crayons, including the renaming of various touchy shades:
At least race relations works in reverse when it comes to the much-unloved white crayon. A waxy whiff of justice!
As always, a big thank-you to Josh Rutner, the color-fan who supplied me with several of these ideas. His band The Respect Sextet just released a new album, Farcical Built for Six – buy that bad boy today! You won’t be sorry.
Send me your color-stories for the next Wunderkammer of Color: jude [at] judestewart (dot) com.