In the 1950s a group of artists living and working in Washington, D.C. began to experiment with techniques and approaches that would lead them to form individual, yet related styles in reaction to abstract expressionism. Using newly available acrylic paints that were soaked or stained into often unprimed canvas, these artists created a new type of abstract painting that asserted the primacy of color, and favored a relatively anonymous touch.
In 1965 the Washington Gallery of Modern Art (1961-68) organized a seminal exhibition that toured widely -including to the Walker Art Center and The Rose Art Galleries at Brandeis University- and helped define this group of artists. The Washington Color Painters featured canvases by Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Gene Davis, Thomas Downing, Howard Mehring, and Paul Reed. 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of this pivotal exhibition and provides the impetus for reassessing this major movement. Opening exactly 50 years to the day after the original exhibition, Washington Color Painters Reconsidered will look at the achievement of the six artists included in the original 1965 exhibition alongside the work of Sam Gilliam and Alma Thomas, two Washington-based artists not originally included.
Helaine Posner is Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, Purchase, New York. Sue Scott is an independent curator and writer.
Posner and Scott have curated numerous exhibitions of contemporary art and are co-authors of After the Revolution: Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art (2007).