I started to fall for the monochromatic vibe when I became disenchanted with colors, colors that are bright were offensive to me, contrasting colors juxtaposed with one another seemed cheap and gaudy, colors in a variety of patterns were too pretty. When it came to decorating the walls in my house I just admitted defeat and ignorance about color in interior spaces. Out of desperation I reviewed Joseph Albers color studies to retrieve a sense of ethereality in his Homage to the Square. He made color both material and immaterial. While I knew I loved color, I was trapped by the security of a single color solving a variety of design decisions. Luckily my daughter inspired me with her rainbow drawings everyday. She started to wear fantastic color combinations like kelly green with fuchsia pinks, those preppy arrangements from the early 80’s in penny loafers. She painted patterns with rich darks and bright florals. There wasn’t a color that didn’t have life to her. Over time I grew fond of color again. Now I still don’t know how to wear any yellow nor do I know which yellows go well with purple, but gold rekindled my attraction to color as an elegant option. Gold is everywhere in art history but here it opens up a dialogue in the traditional works of Rubens such as this scene of the couple resting by the honeysuckle with the next image of Rimondi’s distinct Baroque couture against a gold catwalk. The Baroque Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens is both the artist and male model here with his wife and model Isabella Brant, perhaps around the time of marriage. Their skin tones are remarkably sensual and true to life, the casual togetherness marked by the embrace of their overlapping hands and the extraordinary balance of her hat make this couple oddly knowable and current. Is it the colors?
When I look at both images the ‘classic’ feels grounding and never obnoxious. Darks dominate in several value ranges unlike like our contemporary, flat, uniform, unvarying ‘black’ as staple for every season. And the gold continues its advantage of maintaining the status of ‘special’ in unwavering ways. But gold rarely leaves itself in art or fashion, it can get more champagne like or more rose or green and it can get deeper into earth tones. Essentially it keeps forever like a gold ring.
The sea creatures in the image above echo in the line pattern of Rimondi’s dress, the monochromatic values of being visible and then the translucency of not. Here the sea life feel like fabric suspended in medium pushed by the flows of change.
From inside the sea to the human activity outside it two other realities collide such as in Mark Tansey’s Diptych. His mastery comes in re-presenting topsy turvy interactions where the seemingly real meets the unlikely. The monochromatic color scheme has a way of blending and uniting these realities further away from their origins but strangely in the process they make sense.
And lastly I want to remark on how unusual this blue is in these fabulous gloves. It makes sense to have dresses in this color, but when you wear gloves this color and at this length with the same color dress another visual dimension opens up. More glove is more desirable. More glove in blue is simply without interruption more ‘whole’ in the outfit. The monochrome effect unites details, contrasts and the unconventional into a nuanced language of expression.
So the monochrome frequency rules for now, but lucky for my household we have a nine year old colorist leading the way.