Washington Color School

Washington Color School

A visual-art movement of the 1960s, the Washington Color School was originally a group of painters who showed works in the "Washington Color Painters" exhibit at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art in Washington, DC from June 25-September 5, 1965. The exhibition subsequently traveled to several other venues in the United States, including the Walker Art Center. The exhibition's organizer was Gerald "Gerry" Nordland and the painters included Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Gene Davis, Howard Mehring, Thomas "Tom" Downing, and Paul Reed.

The Washington Color School artists painted largely abstract works, and were central to the larger color field movement. Though not generally considered abstract expressionists, in so far as much of their work is more orderly than—and not apparently motivated by the philosophy behind—abstract expressionism, there are parallels between the Washington Color School and the abstract expressionists largely to their north in New York City. Minimally, the use of stripes, washes, and fields of single colors of paint on canvas were common to most artists in both groups.

After their initial, benchmark exhibition, Davis, Mehring, Downing, and Reed exhibited at various times at Jefferson Place Gallery, which was originally directed by Alice Denney and later owned and directed by Nesta Dorrance. The group is sometimes thought to have expanded as it achieved a dominant presence in the Washington DC visual art community through the 1960s and into the 1970s. Along with the original Washington Color School painters, a second generation also exhibited at Jefferson Place Gallery. The movement remained influential even as some of its members dispersed elsewhere.

During Spring and Summer 2007, arts institutions in Washington, DC staged a city-wide celebration of Color Field painting, including exhibitions at galleries and museums of works by members of the Washington Color School. [http://www.washington.org/colorfieldremix/index.cfm]


* [http://www.artnet.com/usernet/awc/awc_history_view.asp?aid=424172436&info_type_id=3 Gene Davis Catalog]
*J. D. Serwer. 1987. "Gene Davis, A Memorial Exhibition". Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 0-87474-854-2
*Introduction & Text by Roy Slade, "The Corcoran & Washington Art" Copyright 1976 The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.: 2000 copies printed by Garamond Press, Baltimore, MD LCCC# 76-42098
*Smithsonian Archives of American Art,Interview with Gerald Nordland Conducted by Susan Larsen, Chicago, Illinois May 25-26, 2004 http://www.aaa.si.edu/collections/oralhistories/transcripts/nordla04.htm
*"Washington Art", catalog of exhibitions at State University College at Potsdam, NY & State University of New York at Albany, 1971 [no copyright or LCCC # listed] , Introduction by Renato G. Danese, printed by Regal Art Press, Troy NY.
*"The Vincent Melzac Collection," Forward by Walter Hopps, Introduction by Ellen Gross Landau, Retrospective Notes on the Washington Color School by Barbara Rose, Copyright 1971 The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.: printed by Garamond/Pridemark Press, Baltimore, MD LCCC#75-153646

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