In a small Vilnius café this July, I heard poet Linor Goralik translate her own first line: “The dark-blue thing turns bluish.” In English there is “blue,” but in the poem’s original Russian there are two blue brothers: one light, one dark. I cannot tell the two apart, but my parents can point to parts of the sky and assign them different identities. Color is evidently hard to translate, but in both versions the dynamism of the palette is preserved. Goralik’s poem continues into a world of raging silvers and pale white things crawling, and of greens burning in the suns.
Writing tends to complement art, and so I heard Goralik’s poem in my head when I visited Cathleen Mooses’ studio in 353 Crown Street on an icy Wednesday morning. Last semester, Mooses, MFA ’14, experimented with printing shades of blue onto vintage Mexican notebook pages. When she laid the sheets outs on the floor, she found that their arrangement reminded her of blueprints or tapestries. I asked Mooses why she’d chosen blue, and she explained: “ I was thinking of a color that would subdue any other information below it. Blue has a strong presence but isn’t loud. It doesn’t demand attention—many lines in the notebook were blue, and here it’s as if they had bled out.”
She pointed at a paper: “This indigo blue is far more serious than that one.”
The animation of color in context is a familiar idea at Yale: Josef Albers, who headed and taught at the Art School in the 1950s, devoted his life to exploring the perception and juxtaposition of color. As a freshman at Cooper Union, Mooses went through all of Albers’ “Interactions in Color” exercises, Color Aid in hand. These assignments emphasize relationships between colors, and Mooses recalled being challenged to “recreate our own examples, find our own vibration.” In this project, Mooses “didn’t want blue straight from the can, unlike Albers who used it right out of the tube…,” but the idea remains: to construct contrast, to vivify colors, and watch them give and receive—a meeting of one blue thing with a different blue thing, both of them turning bluish from the encounter.