Blogging Blaffer

Art and Colorblindness

It’s a truism that artists see things differently than most of us, but in Matthew Ronay‘s case, it’s literally true. As Ronay told writer Laura A.L. Wellen in Arts+Culture Texas magazine, although his exquisitely handcrafted sculptures combine hues from across the spectrum that vibrate and hum, he has a form of colorblindness:

Ronay’s striking use of color in the installation Organ /Organelle maps a kind of abstracted respiratory system in reds, pinks, purples, yellows, and a few splashes of turquoise. Ronay, who is colorblind, notes his respectful fixation on color and its subjective qualities. “Everyone has a different way of seeing color,” he says. “As a deficiency, [being colorblind] has made me extra careful and curious… That kind of unknowing really gives me something to work with.” His technicolor objects lend a joyful brightness to the exhibition’s atmosphere. “If I weren’t colorblind, maybe I’d use more ‘tasteful’ combinations, or more subtle,” he says. But these psychedelic combinations, he adds, are often found in nature, in undersea environments, in the plumage of tropical birds, or in the foliage of Amazonian plants. “An installation has the quality of a whole, entire world… Artists and shamans have always created in conversation with nature, whether we understand it or not.”

Using an extensive set of dyed wood color samples, Ronay collaborates with his wife Bengü, a graphic designer, to realize the desired color temperature. We have a set of Ronay’s samples in our lounge, which you’re welcome to handle during your visit.

_ Color samples

While the resulting sculptures are undeniably beautiful, the fact remains that what Ronay sees won’t look quite the same as what the rest of us do.

To get a sense of how various color vision deficiencies might affect what Ronay’s work looks like, try downloading the Chromatic Vision Simulator, a free smartphone app developed by Kazunori Asada. Here’s Organ/Organelle as “seen” by an iPhone four different ways (normal color vision, top left; protanope, deuteranope and tritanope).

_CV Simulator Organ Organelle 4

When you visit the exhibition, you’re welcome to take photos using the CV Simulator and share them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using #MatthewRonay and #Blaffer. Just don’t forget to put your phone away and experience Ronay’s surreal world of color the way it was meant to be seen — in person.

Matthew Ronay, Organ/Organelle, Marc Foxx, Los Angeles, September 6–October 4, 2014. Photo by Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy of Marc Foxx, Los Angeles.

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Phone: 713-743-9521
Mailing Address: Blaffer Art Museum
University of Houston
120 Fine Arts Building Houston, TX 77204