Tinted Love, Baby

Morgan Fisher at Bortolami is the Daily Pic by Blake Gopnik

The Daily Pic: 1930s paint samples help Morgan Fisher get at abstraction's heft.

When I first looked through the window of Bortolami gallery and spotted these and other paintings by Morgan Fisher, I thought "Oh no, not more late-in-the-day re-riffing on attractive Color Field abstraction". Then I went in and discovered a backstory that changes everything: The paintings are faithful enlargements of color chips from a brochure that Fisher's father, a builder of prefab homes, had offered to clients in about 1935. The paintings' compositions represent the "tasteful" combinations the brochure suggests for different rooms in a modern house.

Fisher's installation doesn't use serious modernist art as the basis for 21st-century decor, as so many of today's abstract painters do. It makes clear that, from the beginning, decor went hand-in-hand with serious modernist art. Fisher isn't using color chips as raw material for his own aesthetic play, as is the norm in other color-chip art (there's a lot of it around...) Fisher is preserving the original aesthetics of the brochure, as a kind of document in the social history of art.

For a full visual survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive. The Daily Pic can also be found at the bottom of the home page of thedailybeast.com, and on that site’s Art Beast page.