Ruth Ann Fredenthal (Detroit), Winston Roeth (Chicago, 1945) Phil Sims (Richmond, 1940), three of the most important and intriguing exponents of American colour art, will be the protagonists of the forthcoming exhibition at Osart Gallery in Milan entitled Color as Attitude.

Curated by Alberto Zanchetta and on view from the 28th of september until the 15th of November, this group show sets out to enhance the understanding of each artist’s career as a painter through a careful selection of nine works, both historical and recent.

Colour is certainly the common thread shared by these three artists, who only at first sight appear to paint in monochrome. These are works that feature a characteristic radical contemporary expression that sets them apart from Minimalist monochrome production and from the cold intellectualism of the Conceptualists. What interests them the most is technique and the impression they make on the observer. The numerous veiling effects on the painted surface make it seem to disappear and open up a view of an undefined space.

Three or four colours are used in the works of Ruth Ann Fredenthal, for example, distributed in different parts of the support. The surface is animated by slight variations of colour and undulating lines that are almost imperceptible to the naked eye.

Her quest for the micro-tonalities of pure colour and their relationship, as subtle as it is complicated, has always constituted a vital theme in her artistic production. The technique she uses is very scientific: she starts by choosing her format, the square, and her linen surface, a linen that comes from Belgium and is usually used by restorers to line older works, and only then does she apply her colour.

The end result is breathtaking. Generated by the multiple layers of applied colours, the painted surface seems to disappear and open up a view of an undefined space, as Giuseppe Panza, one of Ruth Ann Fredenthal’s earliest admirers, put it in his Memories of a Collector.

Similarly, Phil Sims’ painting technique is based on the application of multiple layers of paint, usually somewhere between forty and sixty of them, until the entire surface of the canvas is covered with horizontal and vertical brushstrokes.

One notable quality of Phil Sims’ technique of application is that, layer after layer, his colour takes on and unleashes a unique luminosity. By virtue of his innate sensitivity and painstaking technique, the final result has to be seen to be believed: the ultimate colour is created as the total sum of his many brushstrokes, which filter through to the surface.

Winston Roeth paints monochrome or bichrome panels that he often combines to form a single installation. Working with raw pigment and tempera, he creates dense matt surfaces, sometimes painting the outline in a contrasting colour.

Roeth plays with a variety of combinations of lines, exploring the effects they have on human perception. The phenomenology of colour, of light and of space constitutes a focal theme in Roeth’s practice of painting. After years spent exploring light and colour, he reached the point when he developed a clear technique of his own. Using a brush, he applies the pure pigment, layer after layer, mixing it with water and an emulsion of polyurethane, until the entire surface of the canvas is covered. All his efforts are focused on the attempt to achieve the right degree of saturation of the colour, so that the pigments give off pure light.