When color-proofing a work of art, one typically deals more with approximation than absolutes. The perceived color of, say, a painting, varies in countless ways: what kind of light is shining on it? Is it framed behind glass? Is any part of the artwork reflective or oddly-textured? Beyond variables like these, color is subjective—you might not really see color the same way I do. Accurately reproducing a work of art is no small feat, but we in the Publications Department try our best.
In preparing the catalogue for the forthcoming exhibition Roy Lichtenstein: A Retrospective, we were given an opportunity to be a bit more absolute than usual. The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation lent us color swatches made from the very paints Lichtenstein used throughout his career. These allowed us to approach his works with an unusual amount of bravado. We could compare the swatches to the colors in the painting and say, without hesitation, "This is the red he used: Cadmium Red Deep. And so it was. Lo." We prepared CMYK builds of all of these paints so the images of his artwork could easily (well, relatively easily) be translated into the color environment of the printing press.
Proofing this way allowed us to avoid a sneaky phenomenon called metamerism, which refers to the phenomenon of two different objects' colors appearing to match under one light source, but not any other. Specifically, this is called illuminant metameric failure. This is a problem because our proofs are inkjet images output from digital files, and they're supposed to be able to match... well, anything in the museum. Oil on canvas, graphite on vellum, mahogany, steel, sandstone, LEDs, and on and on. Our proofs react to light differently than the objects. Now consider the different types of light in the places we view the art: dimly-lit hallway galleries, constantly-changing skylit galleries, and fluorescent-lit storage spaces. Variables galore.
The beauty of using Lichtenstein's paint chips is that it subtracts variable light from the equation. Every kind of light (sunlight, fluorescent, incandescent, etc.) affects the paint chips the same way it affects the painting, because, well, it's the same material. When we start there, we have a little less room for subjectivity. And so it was. Lo.
1 hour 45 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING SOON—Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem
Two major figures in American art and literature aim to make the black experience visible in postwar America.
Closing August 28—http://bit.ly/2aQrnYd
6 hours 14 min ago The Art Institute of Chicago It is believed Van Dyck never intended for the early stages of his etchings to be circulated and was surprised by their immediate popularity in the art market. Finding success at a time when artists didn’t usually show works in progress, these “unfinished” prints helped set the stage for the more recent popularity of works that reveal the creative process. See the prints that altered conventions in Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and the Portrait Print—closing August 7.
1 day 1 hour ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT 1983: The museum held an exhibition for the collection of Jalane and Richard Davidson, Chicago collectors of contemporary American realist drawings. Acknowledged at the time for collecting against prevailing art world trends, they amassed a comprehensive collection of work spanning the careers of both well-known artists—like Jack Beal, pictured here with Jalane herself and a portrait he made of her—and lesser-known Midwestern artists. The entire Davidson collection was bequeathed to the museum and saw another exhibition devoted to it in 1999.