Rauschenberg & Black and White

Kenneth Murray
Oct 20, 2014 3:50AM

When introduced to the Rauschenberg project and the opportunity to organize a body of work based on one theme, I looked at my own personal artwork to find inspiration. Value structure and the application of the principles and elements of design are an imperative aspect to the work I create and are frequently my greatest downfall. Too often have I created illustrations, designs, and prints that had strong concept, subject matter, and technical execution but were unsuccessful because they were flawed in value structure or failed to meet the key facets of the principles and/or elements of design. I decided I would use the Rauschenberg project as not only a tool to view and become familiar with many different galleries, art, and artists, but to help forward my skills as an artist by observing and studying works in a formal sense. 

Using the Japanese concept of nōtan, the use of light and dark and how they are placed next to each other in a composition, I based my theme around black and white photography and abstract painting. My idea is centralized around harmony, balance, and unity, three of the principles of design. When observing my selected works, the viewer would not just be looking at subject matter or the marks made, but how the composition looks as a cohesive whole. Why does the artist use that light? why is placement important? Why the use of texture? These are all questions the viewer would naturally be drawn to, and provoked to try and understand. I chose pieces that I found harmonious in the application of black, white, and grey, balanced in composition, and that were unified amongst the other images I had chosen. At the core of each of these images lies a sense of formalism and an equalizing feeling of emotion. 

Finally, my theme to explore black, white, and grey and how they apply to all principles and elements of a composition is strongly tied to seeking out only photography and abstract painting. I discovered through my research and prior knowledge and experiences that finding the balance and harmony in your composition when taking a black and white photograph is essential to having a successful image under a formal critique. Photographers take on the challenge of applying a deep understanding of the rudiments of form, space, and value when choosing the image they wish to shoot. In the same vein as that idea are abstract painters who have chosen to create a black and white composition. Because color and the emotions we gain from them are no longer available to artist or the audience, the painter is forced to rely on the elements and principles of design to provoke the feeling from the work. Both of these mediums are a key aspect to my curation. 

Kenneth Murray