20 January – 9 March 2022

Zurich, Limmatstrasse

‘The obvious thing to say is that colour speaks for itself in art, and that any attempt to speak on its behalf is bound to fail. And yet for all the small talk that might happily be silenced forever, there is at the same time a bigger silence around the very subject of colour in art...’—David Batchelor, Chromophobia (2000)

Explore the exhibition

Colour is not a simple subject. In this group exhibition, titled ‘Chromophilia’ meaning the love of colour, the artists on view trace the complexity and possibility of colour, emancipated to differing degrees from line and form, within their chosen medium either synthetic or found – from liquid paint to sewn fabric, from coloured glass to LEDs, from neon to bindis.

‘Chromophilia’ brings together paintings, collages, sculptures and installations by artists including Phyllida Barlow, David Batchelor, Larry Bell, Louise Bourgeois, Frank Bowling, Geta Brătescu, Alexander Calder, Martin Creed, Günther Förg, Mary Heilmann, Jenny Holzer, Roni Horn, Bharti Kher, Yves Klein, John McCracken, Jason Rhoades, Pipilotti Rist, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Elisabeth Wild.

Until the 20th Century, colour in European, or Western, art was largely subordinated to line and form. The emancipation of colour in modern art came with the advent of movements such as impressionism, pointillism, fauvism, or the aptly named Blue Rider, and with the early development of modernist abstraction. The role of colour changed radically with the work of pioneering artists from Hilma af Klint to Hélio Oiticica, and with Yves Klein, whose work ‘Total Speed (Crazed Blue)’ 1958, a collaboration with Jean Tinguely, is on view in the exhibition.

A concentration on colour remains a complex topic and the radical, though deceptive, simplicity of the use of single colours, particularly as monochromes, has been one of its most challenging aspects. Extending beyond the monochrome to explore close colour contrasts, Larry Bell’s early oil on canvas ‘Untitled’ (1959) ranges from orange and taupe to sienna and wine. This work anticipates his vibrantly tinted glass sculptures, such as ‘Pacific Red (IV)’ (2016-2017). Both show him to be a formidable colourist.

Colour has the capacity to work in myriad ways, representing opposing psychological states, from exuberant joy to crushing despair. Like music, brilliant colour can lift our spirits or stimulate memory; and artists have often turned to synaesthesia to develop their work.

Colour, however, can be and frequently is highly symbolic, and often it is politicised, representing partisan ideologies, playing a role in activism or denoting race and gender. Colour is not impartial and white is also a colour, not necessarily or merely its absence. Colour is historically defined and located; it changes according to its given cultural associations. In the short, dark days of winter we embrace intense and magnificent colour in festivals and celebrations that serve to reinforce identity.

Throughout his career Frank Bowling has engaged with the complexity of colour in painting, and has developed his own highly original approaches to chromatic abstraction. His work ‘Swimmers’ (2020) presents the viewer with a dense, layered surface, composed from acrylic paints and gels, collaged canvas and found materials or objects.

Bharti Kher’s sculpture ‘Peacock’ (2011) employs sari fabrics dipped in resin; by forming the bright green, shimmery blue and regal red fabrics into a peacock-like shape, Kher draws our attention to the transformation of everyday materials, likewise to the relation of colour to the body, and also to the important roles colour plays in India.

Occupying the full height of the exhibition space, Pipilotti Rist’s immersive installation ‘Wohnzimmerdisco ohne Angst (Living Room Disco without Fear)’ (2009) combines carpets and curtains, with sound and light to create a shower of vivid colour tones. David Batchelor’s ‘Chromodisc’ (2019) is a sculptural clock that uses light to move through the colour spectrum over the course of an hour. Overall, the artists included in ‘Chromophilia’ deploy colour always in inventive and extraordinary ways, helping us to see and experience our world anew.

On View in Zurich, Limmatstrasse

Chromophilia’ is on view now through 9 March 2022 at Hauser & Wirth Zurich, Limmatstrasse.

About the Artists

Roni Horn

Roni Horn’s work consistently generates uncertainty to thwart closure in her work. Important across her oeuvre is her longstanding interest to the protean nature of identity, meaning, and perception, as well as the notion of doubling; issues which continue to propel Horn’s practice.

Mary Heilmann

Influenced by 1960s counterculture, the free speech movement, and the surf ethos of her native California, Mary Heilmann ranks amongst the most influential abstract painters of her generation. Considered one of the preeminent contemporary Abstract painters, Heilmann’s practice overlays the analytical geometries of Minimalism with the spontaneous ethos of the...

Pipilotti Rist

Pipilotti Rist, a pioneer of spatial video art, was born 1962 in Grabs in the Swiss Rhine Valley on the Austrian Border and has been a central figure within the international art scene since the mid-1980s.

Bharti Kher

Born in London in 1969, Bharti Kher’s art gives form to quotidian life and its daily rituals in a way that reassesses and transforms their meaning to yield an air of magical realism. Now living between London, UK and New Delhi, India, her use of found objects is informed by...

Phyllida Barlow

For almost 60 years, British artist Phyllida Barlow took inspiration from her surroundings to create imposing installations that can be at once menacing and playful. She created large-scale yet anti-monumental sculptures from inexpensive, low-grade materials such as cardboard, fabric, plywood, polystyrene, scrim, plaster and cement. These constructions were often painted...

Geta Brătescu

One of the first representatives of conceptualist approaches in Romania, Geta Brătescu’s oeuvre comprises drawing, collage, textiles, photography, experimental film and performance. In her seven-decade career, she has published a number of books documenting her daily studio activities and personal experiences of art and travel.

Louise Bourgeois

Born in France in 1911, and working in America from 1938 until her death in 2010, Louise Bourgeois is recognized as one of the most important and influential artists of the 20th Century. For over seven decades, Bourgeois’s creative process was fueled by an introspective reality, often rooted in cathartic...

Sophie Taeuber-Arp

Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889 – 1943) is one of the most important artists of the twentieth-century avant-garde and is considered a pioneer of Constructivist art. Reconciling extremes with confidence—Dada and Geometric Abstraction, fine art and utilitarian objects—Taeuber-Arp’s works boldly engaged with the intellectual context of international modernism. Through her multi-faceted approach...

Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer is an American conceptual and installation artist whose work deploys text in public spaces across an array of media, including electronic signs, carved stone, paintings, billboards, and printed materials. Holzer’s oeuvre provokes public debate and illuminates social and political justice. Celebrated for her inimitable use of language and projects in the public...

Jason Rhoades

Jason Rhoades (1965 – 2006) was a visionary artist and world builder for whom sculpture and myth were intertwined forms of construction. His epic assemblage installations established him as a force of the international art world in the 1990s, while based in Los Angeles. America was his art’s imaginative subject,...

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Chromophilia’ is on view now through 9 March 2022 at Hauser & Wirth Zurich, Limmatstrasse.

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