Traveling through the Mojave Desert, in Arizona and California, the primary experience seems to center on the extreme heat. Temperatures can top 120 degrees there, in the throes of summer. It might be easy to overlook the wash of broad colors that dominate this landscape. This could apply to many areas of the American Southwest, this stark characteristic of broad floating monochromatic colors.
This characteristic is a central element of Color Field painting which is a form of abstract painting popularizes in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. A flat wash of bands of color which de-emphasize the subject content or the object of representation while emphasizing the color. Obviously these unbroken swathes of color could invoke some form of tone, mood, atmosphere, and/or emotion.
Between Kingman, Arizona and Barstow, California, on highway 40, the landscape is a broad stroke of tan landforms against a white/blue sky. It is an experience of austerity and an unadorned peacefulness in the form a massive real-live Color Field tableaux.
An early proponent, mid-20th century, of Color Field is Milton Avery.
A recent contemporary proponent of Color Field is Wolf Kahn.
On the road from Reno to Las Vegas, a trip that I have taken a few times, there are broad strong terrestrial forms within the open vista. The following poem is illustrative.
the southeast shuffle of hwy 95 falls from reno
& lake tahoe to the crimson valley
(and) nomadic high-low ranches be blessed ..
their ginger prospects hurry the road
for fifteen miles or twenty miles visible spirits
fall from wassuk range to walker lake
there are abysses off parts of the road ..
one wants not to imagine cuts in the earth
there are sinks/dry lakes, out of sight ..
miles miles long with bodies of salts & soils
foreign buildings bleeding metallic,
& of a military distance, moor some surroundings
the human constructs of boundaries are ignored
by a boundary peak straddling 2 states
a generation of signs tempt one to the death valley,
west an hour & a detour to below sea level
the embittered valley ‘amargosa’ never forgets ..
it perseveres memories in the land ..
while cactus springs & indian springs
succeed the depressions of the low lands of las vegas
(from the poetry manuscript: constructions) (©2012)
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