Review: James Wille Faust's Color Meditations 

iMOCA's exhibition on color

click to enlarge color_meditation.jpg

"What is color?" my daughter asked me recently as I drove her to school. I started to tell her about the visible light spectrum... and stumbled. It was a simple question that overwhelmed me. But being overwhelmed might be a necessary step toward wisdom.

In his exhibition statement, James Wille Faust writes that he felt "overwhelmed by color choices" while a graduate student in 1974. But then, he continues, "I was inspired by a Zen lesson, 'to understand color, one must practice the absence of color.'" He stopped painting and, instead, turned to pencil and paper.

Faust eventually returned to color. Examples of his signature work — evoking the illusion of 3D with spraying and shading effects — are well-represented in this showcase of his production over the last two years. Some of these paintings nod toward representation, such as the intriguingly titled "Human," where you see egg and its shadow superimposed on a geometrically-shaped bird with a bright shining star for an eye. The painting's colors are in hues of skin color ranging from the lightest hues to chocolate brown. Are birds more human than we think?

On the other hand, the "Color Meditation" paintings from which the exhibit takes its name, traffic in no 3D illusions whatsoever. They feature flat, geometrically-shaped planes of color (composed both by hand and digitally) that don't intersect but edge up against one another and say hi from all different slices of the color wheel.

Check out the sculptural works like his "Fallen Vase," featuring a flower rising from a painted ball that appears to have popped out of a Faust canvas. And then there are the equally engaging hybrid painting/sculptures. In "Bird and Butterfly" a bird takes flight — sticking its wings above the 2D painting surface. And in "Exceeding the Limit," a bowl sits on a frame dripping paint on a composition as flat as any Color Field painting ever.

It was the painting "Apparition," however, that grabbed me with its gravity. Here I can imagine Faust configuring the geometries that shape his signature work before returning to color in 1979.

iMOCA through May 2016

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