The color red has long been affiliated with passion and warmth, perhaps because it is also the color of fire and blood. Emotionally intense, red increases respiration, raises blood pressure and enhances human metabolism. Red also has significant cultural meaning around the world: in China, red is associated with good luck and fortune; in Japan, red is associated closely with a few deities and statues are often painted that color; and in Sweden, red was reserved for the privileged class.
Recently, Emerge Gallery & Art Space in Saugerties curated, “Primar(il)y Red: A Group Exhibition of Artwork Celebrating the Color Red.” Robert P. Langdon, Emerge Gallery director stated, “Everyone experiences art differently, but I believe that the selected works in this exhibition will offer the viewers a chance to connect with their feelings to see which emotions are elicited from spending time with the work.” Forty-five pieces of art representing forty-four emerging artists from the Hudson Valley and New York Metropolitan area were included in this exhibition. Langdon stated, “Although some of the work included is not entirely red, the viewer’s eye is drawn to the red element in the piece.”
This is noted in “Red Wings,” a painting by Elin Menzies depicting two Red Winged Blackbirds perched in the brush. The artist uses layering and sgraffito on the surface, creating a magical setting for the birds to roost. The brush is painted in subtle colors making the vibrant red-colored wings pop against the background. Marilyn Rowley uses another approach with red in “Descent,” where the first thing viewers will notice is the vibrant red background. The artist has captured the moment as a black bird lands against a red background with white gestural lines completing the dynamic composition.
Alison Winfield-Burns exhibits “Red Palio,” a painting inspired by the annual tradition of the Palio horse race in Siena, Italy. Capturing the excitement of riders and horses that are working together to win with an impressionistic approach, the action on the race track is framed by the stadium’s red swath above the spectators.
Ross Corsair’s moody photograph, “Assignation,” is a study in compositional elements. Viewed from above a plaza, there are intersecting lines, patterns, and textures, primarily in shades of gray. The eye will immediately focus on the red triangles, part of an umbrella held by a lone person crossing the plaza. Corsair’s artist statement explains: “Most of my photographs attempt to capture the ephemeral, a fleeting moment, sometimes cloaked in mystery.”
Ruth Edwy shows “A Landscape in Red,” a lovely, painterly abstraction of the landscape. At first glance, the viewer may think this is simply an examination of the color red, but looking closer you can see form and gesture, design and line. The artist explains her inspiration in her artist statement: “My paintings involve the landscape, more and more, whether in a very abstract form or very literal, but in the end what defines all of my artwork, over many years, is my love affair with light and color.”
This essay originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal’s Enjoy! section, December 16, 2016.