Residents of South Florida are accustomed to a consistent climate that basically only changes from winter to summer (the recent record-setting cold snap notwithstanding). When it comes to connecting colors with the months of the year it can be confusing, as opposed to our northern neighbors who have four distinct seasons. For example, we all seem to associate orange with fall in October. March is a stormy gray while February is universal in its association with the color of RED, particularly because Valentine’s Day (February 14) is celebrated with red hearts and flowers.
To commemorate the red month of February with creative colorful inspiration, Manolis Projects has curated a delightful show currently on view (through February 22, 2022) that showcases some of the best talents in West Palm Beach combined with select painters from greater Miami. Representing Palm Beach County are Carol Calicchio, Ron Burkhardt and Oluwarotimi Ogundipe. Miami-based resident participants are J. Steven Manolis, Hamilton Aguiar, Maite Nobo, Margaret Neill, Somers Randolph, Connie Lloveras, Samuel Gomez, Aurelia Majorel and Anja Wulf. Fernanda Lavera, an artist from Buenos Aires, presents a dashing street-wise composition in red hues, and Jill Krutick, the hotshot New York-based painter, offers a handsome abstract expressionist-based work that you may fall in love with!
In the last five years, Manolis Projects and Gallery have acquired the deserved reputation of offering cutting-edge exhibitions with a primary focus on contemporary abstract expressionist works. Manolis Projects and Gallery has followed the lead of other innovative artists who operated legendary galleries, such as Betty Parsons or John Cheim, who brought with them an informed vision of a creative decision-making process that required no second opinions or consultation. Artist-owned galleries demonstrate a particular informed viewpoint that many other dealers need years of experience to equal, which is obvious with the curation by artist Manolis in this current exhibition.
RED is the boldest color in the spectrum and has captured the imagination of artists for centuries. Red can also signal danger, assertion, strength, romance, excitement, vitality, joy, sexuality, power, and impulsiveness, all of which have been the subjects of artistic vision and the colorful common denominator for quite a number of famous artworks. Matisse’s “The Red Studio “and “Dance,” which depicts nude red musicians, Georgia O’Keeffe’s “Red Hill and Bones,” and Mark Rothko’s “No.301” (where the entire canvas is filled with various shades of red) are classic examples of historic works that utilized the energy and universal language of crimson. A red tide of works celebrating this passionate color continued with classic artists such as Auguste Renoir’s “Claude Renoir in Clown Costume,” John Singer Sargent’s “Dr. Pozzi at Home” and Claude Monet’s reddish portrait of his first wife. Warhol was fascinated with the use of red when he created “Red Lenin” and “Red Hammer & Sickle,” as well as his large dollar bill signs with red backgrounds, which have a market price today of $9 million dollars. They used to say, “better dead than red” (a 1950s rallying call by Senator Joseph McCarthy, a central figure of the Red Scare) but it’s likely that Lucille Ball, Red Grooms, Red Skelton, or the Red Baron would disagree!
Contemporary artists who became famous also experimented with a burgundy mix of red early in their careers. Rauschenberg infamously painted an all-red painting in 1954, followed by red works produced by Donald Judd, Louise Bourgeois, Anish Kapoor, Donald Sultan, Keith Haring, Robert Indiana (LOVE sculpture), Sam Francis’ painterly grids, and David Hockney’s memorable landscapes in shades of crimson.
Painters are not the only ones who found the word and color red as inspirational, musicians have used it in titles for hit songs. You can start humming a familiar tune when you come across catchy songs such as “When the Red Red Robin comes Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along,” “Red Camaro” (Keith Urban), “Little Red Corvette” (Prince), “The Lady in Red” (Chris De Burgh), “99 Red Balloons” (Nena), “Red Red Wine” (UB40) and the iconic number by The Drifters, “You’re more than a number in my little Red Book!”
So, whether gallery labels or record jackets, red has been incorporated into titles for paintings, songs, commercial logos (adding a red circle in Mobil Oil sent profits soaring), restaurants, including Red Rooster, Red Robin, and Red Lobster, all of whom know they can sell more food and increase appetite by utilizing the color red in their signs. Need more inspiration? Throw in rednecks, Little Red Riding Hood, Seeing Red, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, or the color of blood and you may have the inventive inspiration for creating memorable picture-making.
The works on view at this impressive group show at Manolis Projects not only celebrate the red month of February and the romance of Valentine’s Day but collectively show off a delightful mixed use of the color red and its often passionate inspiration. This sweet cherry color together with all its hues and tints has its own built-in signals (including good luck!) that have inspired the artists’ works on view that feature passion and intrigue, danger and romance, all incorporating ruby red.
They say the secret to a great pickle relish is the chopped red bell pepper, and this is definitely an exhibition to relish!
—Bruce Helander is an artist who writes on art. He is a member of the Florida Artists Hall of Fame and a
former White House Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Impressive group show at Manolis Projects