White on White

White on White

“In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is — as it physically is. This fact makes color the most relative medium in art.

In order to use color effectively it is necessary to recognize that color deceives continually. To this end, the beginning is not a study of color systems.

First, it should be learned that one and the same color evokes innumerable readings. Instead of mechanically applying or merely implying laws and rules of color harmony, distinct color effects are produced-through recognition of the interaction of color-by making, for instance, two very different colors look alike, or nearly alike.”

Josef Albers
Interaction of Color, 1963 Yale University Press

In this exhibition, we consider white as a color as informed by Alber’s theory. Though Alber’s color theory is generally keyed towards perceiving colors of greater tone and value than white, the theory is nonetheless applicable to the tone of white. Interestingly, while many of Alber’s examples focus on the increase or decrease of lightness within a color, the vast majority of his work remains clear of shades of white.

Most commonly we consider white as a lack of color, of value, or more scientifically the presence of all color, the complete reflectance of the color spectrum.

Set against the freshly painted walls of the East Sibley Hallway, we ask you to consider what color is white? Or more specifically how is white and the color in its nuances is perceived.

On display are the catalog of several popular paint manufacturer’s catalog’s of white, off-white, and specialty white shades. Taken singularly and without reference many of these tones would appear as "white" within a spectrum of more brilliant shades, however here against the new walls and amongst each other the slow deviations become more visible. Additionally this exhibit highlights the more tonal contrivances of not only value but of the multitude of naming variations, conventions, and the fetishization. Of note, the inclusion of the word "white" within the name often is accompanied by a particularly non-white or color perforated sample.

We ask you to consider simply, or perhaps not so simply — What is the color white?