Alice in Paintland

I went to Pearl Paint to buy a tube of Cadmium Yellow Medium acrylic and a helpful, young sales clerk asked me what kind I wanted. I said “not the student grade paint.” (I’m a rube in paintland, though not totally naive.) He said Golden was what a lot of people liked, steering me to the tube display.


I grabbed my tube then noticed a bunch of Golden color charts rubber-banded together on a shelf under the display. I happen to love color charts (not just the hit of color but color names, too). I have charts squirreled away from many trips to Duron and MAB. But I didn’t know that fine art paints had color charts so I was excited.



Then I noticed the best part. These Golden color charts — with their grid of boxes, each one inhabited by a smear of color — were individually painted and the brushstroke maker got to sign their name at the bottom, in pencil.



Did that make these charts paintings? (Did Gerhardt Richter pick up the idea for his color chart painting (see image below) from Golden?) Were the brushstroke makers, Stacey, D. Parker and G, artists?


And most importantly, how would these bright-colored grids look on my wall at home? It was easy to see that these were, in a way, paintings, albeit ones made in a routinized, stay-in-the-lines way. But there was plenty of individual expression.


G, whose strokes were short and fat, produced a chart with a Zen-like calmness to it. At the end of the stroke there was a nice pool of color that occasionally broke quietly out of the box. Very satisfyling. You could see G’s affinity for the hot colors. Yellows and reds got longer, more juicy strokes.

D. Parker’s strokes had an aggressive diagonal push downward which gave them more zip. However, the paint application was thin.


Stacey, who painted the “Heavy Body Acrylics” charts, was the find. An abstract expressionist within her circumscribed boundaries, Stacey’s strokes, which were uniform in their left-right trajectory, distinguished themselves with drips (!) and ear- or tail-like protrusions that gave the whole chart an animal quality — a little stampede of strokes moving left to right. Very sexy.

I checked Golden’s website to see if I could find Stacey, D. Parker or G listed anywhere. While the site is remarkable for its user friendliness and homey touches (story of the company’s founding in 1980 by 67-year old Sam Golden and his wife Adele is especially great–click the site map link, then the history link), there was no mention of the color chart painters.

Maybe it’s just as well. I have the charts on my wall and they seem like great, outsider art, made for reasons that go beyond art-making by artists who might just as well be called anonymous. They’re probably all women.