Blacker than black?

Ad Reinhardt, Abstract Painting 1960-66, Oil on canvas, 60 x60 inches

"The blackest black ever made on Earth..."
has been created by scientists bubbling a shiny metal plate in nitric acid for a few seconds, resulting in a material that absorbs 99.9% of all visible light. I emphatically say wow to this. The new super-black will apparently have a major impact in certain fields of scientific research and industry.

And for the rest of us?
Does a color exist if there is no one to see it?

Black is a color; black is not a color: depends on who you ask. How about Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, Jacqueline Humphries, Ad Reinhardt, Joseph Marioni or Pat Steir, for starters.

Pat Steir The Dark 2007 Oil on Canvas 134 x 215 1/4 inches, at Cheim Read

Black does not reflect light at any point of the visible spectrum. A response to zero stimulation of the retina, the perception of black depends on contrast with surrounding color stimuli.

Black is the achromatic color value of minimum lightness or maximum darkness,
the color of objects that absorb nearly all light of all visible wavelengths,
and one extreme of the neutral gray series, the opposite being white.

Jacqueline Humphries Untitled 2005 Oil on linen, 36 x 44 inches

If it can be defined in light, then black is the absence of light and therefore not a color -- most especially not Super-Black. But what if defined as a pigment? Then it is a color, most especially Super-black.

Joseph Marioni Violet Painting 2004 Acrylic on linen 78 x 62 inches at Larry Becker Contemporary Art

It is a matter of vision and reflection, a physiological response jaded by our brain.

Kate Beck, Black_2_0208 Digital Image: Pre-Dawn Light, Winter

Super-black reflects 10 to 20 times less light than the current black standard, and is measured as being 30 times darker. So in physics, at least, a black body is a perfect absorber of light.

does Super-black exist if there is no one to see it?

Please, get it in a paint can, whether I can see it or not.


John Zurier: Night Paintings

John Zurier Night 23 Distemper on Linen 20x30 inches

John Zurier Night 20 Distemper on Linen 20x30 inches

Poking around the Old City district of Philadelphia last Saturday, my husband, Jamie Whittemore, and I happened upon John Zurier's eloquent show, Night Paintings, at Larry Becker Contemporary Art. Wandering from the street into this intimate space, on a quiet morning with soft spring-ish light about, we were so pleased to spend a generous, comfortable hour with Heidi and Larry, amidst Zurier's beautiful surfaces. Really, it couldn't get much better than this...

The paintings, all 12 close
in scale and blue hue, are created through a process Zurier refers to as distemper: a mixture of dry pigment and hide glue thinned with water and embedded into raw linen in thin, multiple layers. The resulting surfaces become subtle journeys of the artist's mark and color, in this case resonating pthalo, deep ultramarine and bright lapis-like blues with undertones of veridian and the earthy raw linen evident at the edges and throughout. They are uniformly finished with swathing wide horizontal strokes against the final surface. These are profoundly personal, and fragile, paintings -- so wonderfully displayed within the gallery.

I had a chance to speak with both Zurier and
his wife, photographer Nina Hubbs Zurier, later that evening. John's focus of surface, line and gesture are similar to my own, and it was nice to share a bit of our individual experience together. He and Nina live in Berkely. Both show also with Wade Wilson in Houston and John with Peter Blum in NYC. John Zurier is someone whose work I will follow, and look forward to knowing better.

The exhibit continues through April 19.