Crystal Bridges is open Wed. through Mon. with free, timed tickets required.

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Crystal Bridges is open Wed. through Mon. with free, timed tickets required.

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Learn More >
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Color Field Is Now Open!

Color Field

Crystal Bridges is proud to announce the opening of Color Field, a sculpture exhibition that will be located in the North Forest and in selections of the Contemporary Art Gallery from June 1 to September 30. Artists featured in the exhibition include Claire Helen Ashley, Sarah Braman, Jeffie Brewer, Assaf Evron, Sam Falls, Spencer Finch, TYPOE, Odili Donald Odita, Amanda Ross-Ho, and Jessica Stockholder.

Before visiting Color Field, get to know the history of the color field movement, color theory and terms, and how artists have used those ideas to expand beyond painting on a flat surface.


“The best works are often those with the fewest and simplest elements. Until you look at them a little more, and things start to happen.” -Clyfford Still


Color Theory

Color theory is defined as a set of guidelines that are used in color mixing and design to create visually appealing color combinations.

While studying the light reflecting off of a prism, Sir Isaac Newton invented the first color wheel. Red, blue, and yellow are the three primary colors that are mixed to create other colors. Orange, green, and purple are secondary colors that are created by mixing two primary colors. Tertiary colors are created by mixing one secondary color and one primary color, like yellow-green or red-orange. These are the three main categories, but tons of other colors can be mixed using these color combination.

In 1963, artist Josef Albers published Interaction of Color, a limited-edition color portfolio that meticulously displayed the various ways color impacts our perception. The book is still widely used as a gateway to understanding the impact of color.

Color Wheel

Color Wheel (from DecoArt Blog)


Color Field Painting

We all have a personal relationship to color. Artists have experimented with color for decades to make viewers feel emotionally connected to their work, regardless of identifiable shapes or figures. Popular in the mid-twentieth century, color field painting was a form of abstraction that relied heavily on color and surfaces devoid of realistic representation.

In the late 1940s, a dominant American art movement was inspired by the expressive quality of abstraction. Color field was a form of Abstract Expressionism that evoked emotion through color, using large areas of flat color to generate a meditative or reflective response from viewers.

Artists like Mark Rothko, Morris Louis, and Helen Frankenthaler were known for this style. These artists maintained the elements of color field painting from the 1940s, but they focused on the intrinsic qualities of painting and rejected only emotional or spiritual content.

Morris Louis, “Airborn,” Bentonville, Arkansas, 1959, Acrylic on canvas, 94 x 93 7/8 x 11/2 in. (238.8 x 238.4 x 3.8 cm) Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art


Artists Featured in Color Field

Claire Helen Ashley, Close Encounters: Adam's Madam

Claire Helen Ashley, “Close Encounters: Adam’s Madam,” Jacksonville, Florida, 2018, two inflatable sculptures, acrylic paint, additional media, Approx. 35 x 18 x 22 ft. each, Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville. This artwork is on view in the Contemporary Art Gallery at Crystal Bridges.


In her work titled Close Encounters: Adam’s Madam, Claire Helen Ashley’s inflatable sculptures challenge the notion that a painting has to be flat and that a sculpture has to be solid and still. Inspired by the history of painting, soft toys, and bounce houses, Ashley breaks the rules of both painting and sculpture with her explosion of bright colors and lightweight forms. Her work is located in the Contemporary Art Gallery where visitors are welcome to lightly touch them.


Color Field - Spencer Finch, Back to Kansas

Spencer Finch, “Back to Kansas,” 2015, 130 x 186 in. each, Collection of Christian Keesee, New York and Oklahoma


Color field artist Spencer Finch employed some aspects of color theory in his work titled Back to Kansas. He used the colors he observed in The Wizard of Oz and considered how the main character Dorothy journeyed from a land of black and white to Technicolor. As the sun sets during the day, the saturation of the hue, or the intensity of the color, slowly changes to a neutral gray due to the reduced amount of light. Viewers are encouraged to sit for approximately 30 minutes while this transition occurs.

Color Field encourages us to rethink our perception of color and our connection to the artworks around us. As you move both within the museum and outside on the grounds, take the opportunity to interact with the artworks as you think about the impact of color on your life.

Get your tickets here!


This post was written by Justice Henderson, Interpretation Intern.


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