The Relativity of Black

January 26, 2014, 7:08pm

The Relativity of Black: Q&A with Sean Talley

Long time critic David Levi Strauss proposes that art criticism “involves making finer and finer distinctions among like things.” Sean Talley’s most recent body of work makes a similar kind of assertion with regard to color. For every black surface in Talley’s work there’s a blacker still, an ever finer distinction among like things. And while black may sometimes be considered the absence of color, in Talley’s case it can remind us that chromatic variations result from surface and material properties. As Ad Reinhardt explained, there’s “a black which is old and a black which is fresh. Lustrous (brilliant) black and matte black, black in sunlight and black in shadow.” Black, it turns out, is a multiplicity of colors.


Sean Talley | AIILCI, 2013. Graphite powder on paper. 14 x 11 inches

Last week I started writing about the relativity of black -- black can mean everything at once or nothing at all. I recently had a chance to speak with three diverse artists about the way they use black in their work. Last week I talked to Vincent Como about his monochrome paintings and their relationship to modernism. Today we post my conversation with Oakland-based artist Sean Talley. Next week you’ll be able to read my conversation with Baltimore-based Laura Judkis. My interview with Sean after the jump -- Matt Smith Chavez, San Francisco Contributor

Listed under: Interview

January 19, 2014, 2:39pm

The Relativity of Black: Q&A with Vincent Como

We’re all familiar with Spinal Tap’s ruminations on the color black. In this memorable scene of the mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, the band gathers around their manager as he reveals the jacket cover for their new album, Smell the Glove. There’s no text or any other adornment on it. It’s simply black -- understated and confusing for a 1980s hair band. “You can see yourself on both sides. It’s like a black mirror,” a bewildered bassist mutters. “Well, I think it looks like death. It looks like mourning,” complains the singer. “There’s something about this that's so black. It’s like ‘how much more black could this be?’ And the answer is none. None more black,” observes Nigel, the lead guitarist.

It’s all rather comical. But it’s also kind of profound -- black is death, black is the absence of anything else, black is mystifying, black is stupid. Ad Reinhardt, who was the “black monk” of the New York School, may have agreed most with Spinal Tap’s guitarist. For Reinhardt black was purely an aesthetic-intellectual pursuit and hence the negation of all symbolic meaning -- “none more black,” as Nigel put it. Color, on the other hand, is always making assertions and striving for meaning, and in that sense, Reinhardt added, “it may be vulgarity or folk art or something like that.” -- Matt Smith Chavez, San Francisco Contributor


Vincent Como | The Temptation to Exist 002, 2013. Acrylic on Canvas with Wooden Shelf. 66 x 5 x 7 inches

Listed under: Interview

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