Sam LivmUntitled (2015)

While it’s possible and certainly important to quibble about several problematic considerations given the art historical problem of the male gaze, this is an absolutely fantastic exercise in perceiving color.

Theories on color are a dime a dozen. Color theory with regard to light is different than color theory related to pigments; digital color representation (RGB) is different than the parameters for printing work (CMYK).

I’ll be the first to admit that my (admittedly limited) theoretical understanding of color vastly surpasses my practical know-how. For example: if you consider this work as build on a foundation of Red, Green and Blue, then what becomes immediately clear is the dominance of Red and Blue.

The red highlights in the young woman’s hair, the red-brown of the foilage, skin and wood, the clump of golden leaves in the right third of the frame, the muted nectarine of the more pale skin on her back and shoulder and the more yellow cast of the weathered wood.

There’s the steely blue in the sky, gunmetal blue in the wood, even hints of it in the highlight details outlining her shoulders and hips.

It reminds me of Josef Albers. And yes, that’s a bit of a well-duh! jump to make. But I feel that it’s even more Albers-esque because this doesn’t fixated on only two colors–it uses a hierarchy that enriches the composition by unifying the elements of the image and also prioritizing what is most important about the frame (subject, setting, time of day–in descending order of importance). In the absence of the green, the image would’ve been flatter, wouldn’t have been so visually compelling.

And ultimately that’s what reminds me of Albers–the sort of feeling that rules are limiting and foolish and that when it comes to color, practice should inform theory not the other way around.

I’m not 100% on board with Livm’s work but the one thing I will say without reservation is that he is doing some righteous work with color–and is definitely worth checking out.

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