Saturday, March 12, 2011


Color in its purest form--unmixed, straight out of the tube--is very powerful. The primary colors, red, yellow, and blue (of which all other colors are made), are highly saturated and contrast beautifully with one another.

For this reason, many artists have relied on the primaries to make bold statements and/or illicit responses. From Fauve landscapes to the Suprematist compositions of Kasimir Malevich to Barnett Newman's zip paintings, the color triumvirate has become an important artistic motif.

Newman (1905-1970) is technically considered an Abstract Expressionist because of his relationship with the group, but he also ushered in an era of post-painterly abstraction and eventually Minimalism.

His most famous works consist of a solid ground with thin vertical strips of color or noncolor--called zips--which simultaneously divide and unite the canvas.

He relied on the use of red, yellow, and blue in a number of these works, both for their vibrance and impact, and art historical importance.

By championing boldness of color and simplicity of form, Newman challenged the viewer to confront his large-scale works, which are enveloping in size.

The canvas above, entitled Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue? (1966), encapsulates the challenge implicit in these works.

I took Newman's challenge to prove that I am not afraid of red, yellow, and blue, and styled and outfit with the sole purpose of combining the primaries (and an excuse to wear this cape).

Are you afraid of red, yellow, and blue?
If you feel inspired by Newman's challenge (as I was), and document a primary-colored outfit of your own, send me a link or a photo--I would love to see it and be more than happy to share it!

I'm wearing a vintage cape, vintage silk blouse and pants, vintage snakeskin clutch, J. Crew beaded belt, and Jeffrey Campbell suede and mesh heels.

[Newman images from,,, and, respectively.]


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