The two images in David Roth’s Serigraph are in many ways identical. Same size. Same pattern of dots of changing hues, creating the same shapes, the same shifting fields of light and dark. But in terms of color, they depart radically. One employs only blacks and whites, shades of gray. The other, a vivid palette of the six primary and secondary colors.
It’s a study of color, but more important, a study of the effect of color on the viewer. “What can color do? What is it doing for you?” said gallery owner Gabriel DaSilva. “Does it speak to you differently?”
That a black and white image and a color image can make you feel differently has a subtle but powerful point to make about how color can affect our moods, even beyond art, from winter to summer, from urban to rural environments. And it’s DaSilva’s attention to the pieces’ effects on the viewer that makes “Revisit the ‘70s,” on view now at the DaSilva Gallery through Feb. 16., a kaleidoscope for the eyes.
The title also refers to the interesting origins of many of the pieces in the exhibit. “One of my clients’ friends had a gallery in New York in the ‘70s,” DaSilva said. When the gallery closed, much of its collcetion was put away in storage — for decades, as it turned out. This included a large collection of prints by artists who were working then, in their prime. DaSilva saw the collection about eight months ago and immediately knew he had a show on his hands.
“For art it’s never the wrong time,” DaSilva said. “We’re lucky we’re not a bakery.”
In some cases, quite the opposite: the time spent in the dark meant that many of the prints retained their vivid original colors that would have faded a long time ago if they had been on a wall, exposed to light.
This is especially true for a series of serigraphs by Jay Rosenblum. The artist, who was also a violinist, in these visual works translated his passion for music into images bursting with color and with joy. Preservation also proved vital for a print from Ad Reinhardt, who created images employing various shades of black. There’s just one shade of black, right? Wrong. In Reinhardt’s piece, look closely and you can see nine different shades that emerge like deep sea creatures from the bottom of the ocean.
For different reasons, Rosenblum’s and Reinhardt’s prints are notoriously difficult to photograph. “You have to have the piece in front of you to read it,” DaSilva said. “Being in the presence of the work makes all the difference.”
While explorations of color were a hallmark of art in the 1970s, DaSilva was quick to point out that painters had explored such abstractions much earlier — and, of course, painters continue to do so now. Artist Marcella Casal, who began showing pieces in 2013, partakes of the same aesthetic as her forbears, and is moving things forward as well. DaSilva explained that her paintings are “modular,” designed so that they could work hung any side up, side by side or touching to be made into a larger whole. In the gallery, Da Silva has created something like a pair of wings by hanging the paintings at a 90-degree angle to one another in a corner.
“I like young artists who are pushing,” DaSilva said. “We always think everything’s done already. But not really. There are artists who are re-shaping the shape.”
And not every artist in the 1970s, of course, was engaged in the same thing. DaSilva’s exhibit includes an early work of Bill Weege, a pioneer of digital printmaking.
It also has work from the playfully surreal John Wesley. These artists, for DaSilva, were “working on their own wavelengths.” Yet in other ways they can seem of a piece with their times. “If you put this in the context of the social environment of the 1970s,” DaSilva said, a time of exhaustion and turmoil, of looking for new ways to move forward after the upheaval of the late 1960s, they all make a kind of sense together. They all, in their own way, make the viewer a more active participant in the art. The pieces aren’t delivering a message; they’re engaging in a conversation.
“What does the artist want you to see? The corner? The edge?” DaSilva said. “When I stand in front of it, I want to see everything,”