Paul Reed, an artist associated with the Washington Color School, was born and raised in Washington, D.C. Reed and his colleagues were known for their abstract paintings, which were created by using the technique of soak-staining pigment into the canvas. At that time, this method differed dramatically from the thickly painted gestural strokes of the New York School’s action paintings. The Color School artists employed thinned, acrylic paint that was absorbed into the canvas itself, emphasizing the flatness of the image and focusing on color and design. This technique created abstract fields, or shapes, of color, which for some artists were simplifications of forms in nature. These works have a dynamic lyricism that claims the picture space.
Reed had his first solo exhibition at the Adams-Morgan Gallery in 1963. He was one of six artists, including Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, to show in the 1965 exhibition, “The Washington Color Painters” held at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art. Unlike the work of many of his fellow artists, Reed’s works of the 1970s are characterized by a hard-edged geometric style, though his shapes are formed by the staining techniques typical of color field paintings. However, by the 1990s, Reed began to include more decorative aspects in his overall geometric compositions, building up the surface, giving it texture, and therefore, greater presence. Reed’s works have been widely exhibited and are in many American museum collections. The artist continues to live and work in the Washington area.
Interchange X presents a strident scheme of primary and secondary colors arranged within a clean geometric plane. This piece was painted shortly after his first solo exhibition at Adams Morgan Gallery in 1963, when Reed’s compositions started to mature quickly, working in a bold pallete and juxtaposing strong, linear compositions in carefully chosen colors.
Reed’s early work—created using acrylic on unprimed canvas—was highly methodical and characterized by a centralized image, such as the strong horizontal lines cutting through the center of the composition on this piece. Working sequentially, his compositions increased in complexity as he refined the central idea of his series. Following the Disk series, Reed further explored the mechanics of geometry and overlapping color in later groups entitled Upstart, Inside Out, and Coherence. He and Morris Louis are remembered as the two most successful artists able to fully employ the transparency of modern acrylic paint. Later working with shaped canvases in his series Emerging, Topeka, Hackensack, and Zig-Fields, Reed systematically increased the complexity of color relationships within his works, feeling as though he had exhausted the color possibilities available to him within each of his previous forms.
Property from the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Chicago, Illinois