Color, Color… One Next To The Other
The Paul Kolker collection presents Paul Kolker: Color, Color… One Next to the Other from January 19 through March 10, 2017. The exhibition, with its accompanying catalog, is an experiment in human color perception using both the mediums of video photography and painting. The video experimental group is relevant to a time in which so many of our visual encounters are of colors, one next to the other, on pixelated high-definition display screens. The painting experimental group employs a process of color field painting called decalcomania, which renders fractal-like abstract patterns of a solitary color next to another. The viewer becomes the measuring instrument for the experiment.
color, color decalcomania in green and red, op. 2, 2016 (detail)
acrylic on canvas
55 x 55 inches
The basis for the experiment is Ewald Hering’s 1892 theory, the opponent color process of human color perception to which Kolker was first introduced during his medical school studies in 1957. Originating in each retina are three optic nerve pathways that have opposing visible wavelengths of spectral color sets of blue and yellow, red and green and black and white; the latter providing luminosity, tints and shades producing a myriad of hues. For example, remember the network and cable television presentation of a blue or gold colored dress of a wavelength at the yellow fringe of the violet-blue bell curve. Some saw it as blue. Others as gold. But no one perceived it as blue gold, or yellow blue. Opposing colors we see only in elemental and unmixed form; such as red and green in opposition. There is no green-red or red-green. We see the color as either red or green, as in the detail above…unless we have a type of color blindness called deuteranopia, we may see the detail of the painting as the gray scale in black and white, also depicted above.
Hering’s prescience of the opponent process was color perception genius; almost a century ahead of charge-coupled devices (CCDs) used in video cameras. Similarly, in human color perception, Hering’s coupled opposing charges from wavelength stimulated receptors for yellow in the retinal M cones which synapse in a part of the brain called the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN). The LGN serves as an organic perceptual router, merging pathways from the retinal cones, (color receptors), and rods, (luminosity receptors). The wavelengths of violet to blue stimulate the L cones; red stimulates the S cones; green and yellow the M cones; and black and the luminosity of white stimulate the rods, From the LGN the impulses radiate in pathways to parts of the brain that are involved with perception, proprioception, orientation, emotion, behavior, memory, cognition, insights and intuitions… and much more, including color vision in the optical cortex.
Decalcomania, as Kolker uses the process, is a visually controlled method of moving pigment sandwiched between canvas and an overlaid clear flexible plastic. When the plastic is removed, the surface tension of the peeled wet paint results in ripples, branching and other fractal-like striations which enhance the abstraction as in the image above. In addition to blue-yellow, red-green and black-white experimental decalcomania canvases; a control group of red-blue, red-yellow, blue- green and green-yellow canvases are made. Seven video light sculptures display the experimental and control groups using the zoom apparatus.
Paul Kolker (b. 1935) is a New York-based artist with doctorate degrees in medicine and law. He is a Fellow American College of Surgeons, Fellow American College of Legal Medicine and Emeritus Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at North Shore/ LIJ Glen Cove Hospital, having practiced cardiothoracic surgery on Long Island from 1969 to 2013. In October 2001 Kolker moved his Long Island studio to his current address in the Chelsea art district so that he could produce his works and curate his exhibitions as an experiment in perception. His studio and gallery have together become his laboratory in which the viewer is the measuring instrument for Kolker’s art as a perceptual experiment. Color, Color… One Next to the Other is Kolker’s fifty-sixth solo exhibition.
Paul Kolker: Color, Color… One Next to the Other, is on view at the Paul Kolker collection at 511 West 25th Street from January 19 through March 10, 2017. Paul Kolker: Abstract Decalcomania is ongoing at 600 Third Avenue.