University of Iowa Honors Theses

Thesis Title

Contingency Plan

Major Department

Art, Studio


College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BFA (Bachelor of Fine Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2018

Honors Major Advisor

Kee-ho Yuen

Thesis Mentor

Tameka Norris


For this project, I researched Josef Albers' 1963 Interaction of Color and a small number of responses to the work.

At first, I found myself particularly attracted to Albers' lessons on colors manipulating one another's boundaries and how that effects whether a color appears to move forward or backward on the surface. In most instances, the higher a color's light intensity the closer to the viewer the color will apear; this can be negated by a color of similar hue and light intensity near or on it. If a blue and a red are of equal light intensity, but are painted on a red of slightly lower light intensity, the blue will appear far closer on the picture plane. Albers had two terms to refer to this disparage of how we would perceive that red alone versus that red in context of the other red. Albers coined these 'actual' and 'factual.' Factual is a color as it appears in isolation, color in its Platonic form; actual refers to how colors appear in context, in material. The gray fabric felt the most appropriately neutral context to place these color systems, gray being an amalgam of colors itself. The material as well was utilized for the luminous quality it lends acrylic paint. Many of the colors come straight from the tude, allowing a small group of colors the dynamism to feel like many colors.

Understanding Albers' principles does not necessarily grant the ability to fluidly exercise them, so I find it difficult to classify whether I have achieved some higher understanding of color that I lacked prior to embarking on these paintings. What was gained through Albers' notion of 'actual v. factual' was an understanding of colors potential to evoke more than sensory pleasure, to speak on matters of truth and consistency. Anoka Faruqee, painter and professor at Yale University, approaches actual v. factual from a broader philosophical perspective in her lectures and writing on the Interaction of Color. The ability of colors to manipulate one another ends up begging the question of truth; Faruqee asks if "truth is in the essence of the fact or is truth in the appearance of the thing?" If a color is so easily manipulated by context, to what degree can our ability to perceive ever be trusted? In a sociopolitical climate where differentiating 'what is true' and 'what is not true' has seemingly devolved to afterthought, the ability for colors to mislead a viewer about their factual identity becomes more important than simply being an optical exercise.


Copyright © 2017 Christopher M. Scott

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