This exhibition of 17 works from 1962 to 1967 shows Paul Reed's exploration of color and transparency to achieve movement in evolving series. The earliest works in the exhibition use biomorphic shapes to provide circular movement (1962 to 1964). The forms are then simplified to large geometric forms to explore transparency and color (1964 to 1965). In 1966 grids and bands act as neutral forms to hold color and emphasize the interaction of overlapped colors. These grids then twist and stretch into shaped canvases in 1967.
Paul Reed (1919-2015) is one of the six original members of the Washington Color School, which also included Morris Louis (1912-1962), Kenneth Noland (1924-2010), Gene Davis (1920-1985), Thomas Downing (1928-1985), and Howard Mehring (1931-1978). The artists were defined as a school by the 1965 landmark exhibition Washington Color Painters, curated by Gerald Nordland at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art. Each artist used recently developed acrylic paints directly on unprimed canvas, embedding or staining the color into the painting surface, to create a new sense of color. Juxtaposed against the raw canvas, the glowing matte color appears to float off the painting.
The variety within Paul Reed’s series is unique among the Washington Color School. Reed described his process with each series in three steps. First, he drew shapes until he settled on a form that would hold his envisioned color exercise. Second, he worked in collage and colored tissue paper to see how the color and transparency might work. Third, he applied the form to canvas, now intuitively seeing where he could take the color. Once he achieved the most complex and sophisticated colors for that form, the series was over. Reed said all his ideas were built on lessons learned from previous forms. Reed and childhood friend Gene Davis agreed that repeating a composition allowed for deeper exploration of color, but Reed felt there were finite possibilities. When Reed ended a series he did so to increase the complexity of the next composition, as color always provides new challenges.
The exhibition is on view through May 4th at the gallery and dwigmore.com. A catalogue accompanies the exhibition with the artist's exhibitions, public collections, and significant recent gifts by the Paul A. Reed and Esther K. Reed Trust.
Paul Reed's paintings are currently on view in The New Art: A Milestone Collection Fifty Years Later at Oklahoma City Museum of Art, celebrating their 1968 acquisition of the Washington Gallery of Modern Art collection.