Continuing through May 27, 2017
David Simpson's abstract paintings seduce the eye with their incandescence. They radiate color, glowing as they shift from colors like metallic green to lavender or from silver to light blue, depending on the angle of the light and point of view. The artist mixes iridescent interference pigments with acrylic paint to achieve these effects. Interference paint is made from titanium dioxide that has been electronically coated with mica particles, which reflect the light and create the color shifts. Simpson has been producing mercurial paintings such as these since the late 1980s. This show has one painting dating back to 1998, but most were done over the past five years.
Born in 1928 in Pasadena, California, the artist is 88 and continues to work in Berkeley. Radius Books recently published “David Simpson: Works (1965-2015),” which includes his early geometric paintings, as well as the current body of work. Early recognition included inclusion in a group show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1963 and in Clement Greenberg’s traveling "Post-Painterly Abstraction" show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1964. The current exhibition includes 20 paintings, some arranged in small color-related groups of two or three that range in size from 12 by 12 inches to 72 by 72 inches.
With evocative titles such as “Cloud Cover,” “Day Shift,” “Lost Lilac” and “Grey Dawn,” they cumulatively transform the gallery into a meditative space not unlike the Rothko Chapel. Simpson’s paintings, however, are suffused with light, whereas Rothko’s are darker in both tone and mood. Simpson is constantly seeking that perfect balance between color and form, an ideal state he refers to as “belief made visible.” Although some may see Simpson’s abstract work as minimalist or color-field painting, the nuances of these masterful paintings place them in a category of their own. He refers to them as “essentialist” paintings and said in a 2014 video that he is seeking “clarity with ... the minimum necessary to reach something that is visually and philosophically important to me and hopefully to other people.” These are seductive paintings that continue to fascinate and beguile a new generation of viewers.