The Etymology of Color

by
George Magalios

The names of colors are stories in themselves. There is poetry in “burnt sienna”, “royal blue” or “payne’s gray”. The names of colors are also tied to subjectivity, perspective, and even something as banal as branding. The paint samples at your local hardware stores are filled with pseudo-literary titles for hues that range from the mundane to the sublime. The great irony of names for color is that everyone conceives of a specific hue as uniquely as we conceive of love or experience the taste of a peach.

It is true that colors play on our emotions. We experience different sensations with different juxtapositions. But what about the names? Does a name sway us? For a painter, colors are both fetish objects to adore and the very elements of the art of putting paint to a surface. For conceptual artists as varied as Yves Klein or Gilbert and George, color can be suffused with symbolic power (International Yves Klein Blue or the gold of the performance “The Singing Sculpture”).

There is mystery and poetry in the relationship between language and color. There is no limit to the historical and political implications of this relationship. Politicians wear their predictable dark blue suits and the environmentalist clothes himself in the green of photosynthesis.

War and Paint

by
George A. Magalios

If the enemy masses his forces he Loses ground, if he scatters he loses strength.
Mario Merz quoting Vietcong General Vo Nguyen Giap, 1968

Everything has always been about space, about our relationship to movement in space, possession of space, and power over others (nature, animals, and humans) to acquire and protect space. No matter how sophisticated we may think painting has become pictorially, semiotically, as a practice, or as a discourse, we are always painting as dwellers of both geopolitical and psychic space. Continue Reading