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March 2011

Rail Walk Studios & Gallery in Salisbury, NC, Offers Group Exhibit Focused on the Color Red

The Rail Walk Studios & Gallery in Salisbury, NC, is presenting the exhibit, The RED Show, featuring works in red by Anne Cave, Sharon Forthofer, Annette Ragone Hall, Jane Foster Johnson, Patt Legg, Marietta Foster Smith, and Karen Frazer, on view through Mar. 26, 2011.

Karen Frazer, one of the artists included in the show offered some insight and research about the color red.

“Vermilion, madder, carmine, scarlet, ruby, maroon, these are all shades of red. Recently, I did some minor research of the color red. I am an artist, and thinking about color and its effect is a subject that has occupied my time, perhaps more than most other people’s lists of things to ponder.”

“My fellow artists at Rail Walk Studios & Gallery and I had decided to have a red themed group show. That is what set off the research. Beyond the cupids and hearts, red has a huge list of connotations and symbolism, which includes political and religious, and runs the gambit from one extreme to the other. Some common connotations are aggression, love, passion, heat, fire, beauty, danger, blood, anger, courage, and sacrifice. Red brings conflicting emotions from love to war. Red seems the most emotionally intense color on the artist’s palette. Red, along with yellow and blue, is a primary color. From these three you can make all colors,” writes Frazer.

“I found that red from light has the longest wavelengths seen by the human eye. Is this why it is so intense to us and elicits such passion from us? Does something work on our brain and nervous system and stir our blood to the extent that an intense physical reaction can follow? These are the questions I asked myself when I read about the attack on artist Barnett Newman’s red paintings. I had heard of Newman over the years during my art study and knew he was included with the Abstract Expressionist movement, but that was really about all I knew. I had to find out more. What exactly was the attack? What did the painting look like?” (You’ll have to go to Google to see one of Newman’s paintings.)

“In 1950, Newman had a show at Betty Parsons Gallery in New York City and one of his paintings was defaced. From 1966 through 1967 Newman painted a series of four paintings entitled, Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?, I-IV. In 1982, at the Nationalgalerie in Berlin, Germany, a student picked up a guard bar and started hitting Newman’s painting, Who’s afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue? IV. After he had finished, he laid a number of paper documents in front of the different color portions of the painting. The documents led to his identification and arrest. He told the police he was afraid of the painting, that it was a perversion of the German flag. He also thought what he had done completed the painting.”

Frazer adds, “In 1986, a Dutch realist painter went to the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, and with a box cutter, slashed Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue? III. The attacker is said to have described himself as schizophrenic and psychotic. In 1997, the same attacker again came to the Amsterdam Stedelijk Museum, again with his box knife, and again wanted to get at Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue? III. The painting either was not on display or the attacker was unable to get close enough. I guess this so maddened him that he found Cathedra, a beautiful blue Newman painting at the museum, and slashed it. The Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue? are huge red paintings. They have so much energy. So expressive, so sensual, they seem to radiate passion. They elicit a physical response. In the incidents I have described, it’s not a positive response. I did read another person’s description of their experience of seeing the same painting. They describe the energy and being so attracted to it they had to keep themselves from reaching out to touch the surface. They spent a long time with the painting and said it made them very happy.”

“Why do these paintings reach so deep inside a person? How do they have such power? I think this quote from Barnett Newman answers these questions. Newman said, ‘What matters to a true artist is that he distinguish between a place and no place at all; and the greater the work of art, the greater will be this feeling. And this feeling is the fundamental spiritual dimension. Color has great effect on us consciously and unconsciously. Red is powerful and to be used wisely.”

“I invite you to come witness our use of red in The RED Show at Rail Walk Studios & Gallery in Salisbury,” says Frazer.

For further information check our NC Commercial Gallery listings, call the gallery at 704/431-8964 or visit (

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