between white and almost white

Posted: November 8, 2019 in galleries
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Twice in two days at two different galleries I have encountered white, or almost totally white pieces of art.

This is “Untitled (Basel)”, 1969, by Robert Ryman (1930-2019) now on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).  Yes it is 5 white panels on a white wall.   Before you scoff at this, one square similar to these sold in 2015 for more than 20 million dollars.

5 white squares arranged in a row on a gallery wall, an artwork by Robert Ryman

In the same room as the above is “The Rose”, 1964, by Canadian-born artist Agnes Martin (1912-2004).   There is a pale pink colour to this one.  The pink is made by a grid drawn by hand with red and black pencil, hundreds of red lines in all that “dissolve into a rose-coloured atmosphere”.

rose, a large canvas by Agnes Martin on a wall at the Art Gallery of Ontario, red pencil lines in a grid, it looks pink when viewed from a distance

This is the view that greets you when you walk into the Olga Korper Gallery.

art on the walls of a gallery, all frames are white, the artwork is all very pale

The art on the wall is an exhibit, “the laughter between two miles” by Ken Nicol.  The pale grey pieces on the far wall were made with hundreds of pencil lines.  Although the lines are in patterns of vertical and horizontal lines that aren’t quite a grid like the Agnes Martin piece above, the effect is the same.  The lines are too close together so the eye sees it as a single colour.

In the example below, green, blue, and red lines make a design over letters.  The letters are hand written (are you impressed?  Do you care?) and they are “Sentences on conceptual art” written by Sol LeWitt and first published in 1969.  LeWitt (1928-2007, American) is considered one of the founders of Conceptual Art.  Apparently he once created something similar where all the if’s, and’s & but’s were connected.  Here, the red lines connect all the art’s.

words in lines, sentences about conceptual art, overlaid with green, red, and blue lines

Text as a major element in a piece of art seems to be more prevalent these days, but that’s a subject for another day.

Instead, one last look at the Olga Korper Gallery before leaving – it’s a gorgeous gallery space.

walls of a gallery, white, with some all white artwork on the walls, also a large old double door that is the exit


  1. icelandpenny says:

    I’ll quibble only at the directive not to scoff at the AGO panels, since a similar one sold for 15 million (or 20, or whatever the figure was). That huge sum isn’t an automatic justification for scoffing, but it doesn’t automatically disqualify scoffing either. I guess I’m just disputing the hard link between price paid and response to the art…

    • Mary C says:

      Fair enough. My initial response was that five blank panels fell into the category of “Anybody can do that”. Or, “Why would anyone think that’s art?” Before I wrote that in the blog post I thought that I should at least find out who the artist was. Lo and behold not only was he famous but there was enough demand for his work that it commanded a considerable sum of money. The argument of whether or not people were receiving value for their money is a whole other question, one which that I am not going to attempt to answer!

      • icelandpenny says:

        I was indeed quibbling, not at your comment, just off on a tangent about making a correlation between market price & artistic merit (in either direction!) … arguably, people who value things for their price will get as much njoyment from an expensive painting as someone else might from one that the art market despises but that person happens to enjoy…

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