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If Color Could Kill exhibit explores abstract paintings, August 22-September 15

A new exhibition at Vassar College’s James W. Palmer gallery explores the power of color in abstract paintings. If Color Could Kill: New Paintings from New York City will be on view August 22-September 15, with an artists’ reception to be held in the gallery on Tuesday, September 6, from 5:00-7:00pm. All events are free and open to the public.

The Palmer Gallery is open Monday-Friday from 10:00am-6:00pm, and Saturday- Sunday from 12:00-5:00pm. Calling ahead to the Office of Campus Activities is recommended (845-437-5370). 

Curated by artist and Vassar alumnus Jeff Frederick, If Color Could Kill features works by six New York City-based artists: Paul Behnke, Patrick Berran, Robert Otto Epstein, Brooke Moyse, Gary Petersen, and Craig Taylor.

“Abstract painting can be a color delivery device. But when does color become dangerous? This exhibition imagines a world where color is power,” explains Frederick, himself a painter.  “Modern pigments free the painter from the boring colors of nature. Are these paintings immodest? Too exuberant? Are they, like an eclipse, too powerful to be observed by the naked eye? This is color so intense it overwhelms and electrifies our fragile, vulnerable humanity.”

Frederick writes about the artists:

 -- Paul Behnke’s paintings feature large, flat blocks of color contrasted with tiny eye-catching details. Complex polygons and triangles proliferate. Behnke uses color directly “from the jar” in order to preserve the intensity of his pigments. Perhaps inspired by the color field painters, he extends their language and complicates it. 

-- Patrick Berran’s work creates a tension between the atmospheric and the specific. Enlarged xeroxed details are transferred and overlaid in loosely symmetrical grids of hot and cold color. Simultaneously a screen, window, and door to the future, Berran’s images are an analog interface that unites the mechanical, natural, and hand-made. 

--  Robert Otto Epstein applies a consistent palette of unmixed colors to found or devised patterns. His works are emblematic, suggesting the influence of roadside signs and comics. Knit textiles and video pixels also inform his imagery. Obliging color to conform to a system, Epstein highlights its joyous, expansive power. 

--  Brooke Moyse’s paintings present not pictures of things, but painted things themselves. Shapes are embedded within one another or float, one on top of the other. Parallel lines and stripes suggest topographical contours. There is a lightness and clarity to Moyse’s work, but her forms and color refuse to be subdued. 

--  Gary Petersen pushes the boundaries of hard-edge abstraction to include a humanizing and even comic element. Petersen exults in working with unusual, hard-to-name colors, which he juxtaposes within solid structures of rectangles and wedges. As visual R&D, his paintings could inform the plans for a city or a space station. 

-- Craig Taylor is committed to discovering the never-before-seen image, with figures that are reminiscent of heads or monsters. His color is eye-peeling. His forms churning and unsmooth. The surfaces, accumulations of innumerable touches of paint, shimmer as they burn into our retina. Insistently mercurial, Taylor’s paintings are the opposite of a quick read. 

Read more about the exhibition at

Curator Jeff Frederick also writes for Art In America, is a founder and co-editor of the art blog, and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art at LaGuardia Community College in New York City.


The James W. Palmer III Gallery serves as an exhibition space for artwork created within and beyond the Vassar community, displaying art of diverse media, themes, and origins. Constructed in 1996, the gallery was named and endowed by the Palmer family in 2000 in memory of their son James, a member of the Vassar class of 1990. It is situated between the North Atrium and the Retreat cafeteria at the heart of the College Center addition to Vassar’s Main Building.

Vassar College strives to make its events, performances, and facilities accessible to all. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations must contact the Office of Campus Activities at least 48 hours in advance of an event, Mondays-Fridays, at (845) 437-5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space/and or assistance may not be available. For detailed information about accessibility to specific campus facilities, search for “campus accessibility information” on the Vassar homepage ( Directions to the Vassar campus, located at 124 Raymond Avenue in Poughkeepsie, NY, are available at

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Tuesday, August 16, 2016