Generational Shift

Reducing reality to predictable materials and reliable colors was a strategy to cope for Alberto Burri plus his art materials were inexpensive and easy to get. Minimalists or whatever, artists have always selected various industrial materials to make their art work especially during times like The Great Recession when paintings don't sell steadily.   

Some NY school painters relied on industrial paints and surfaces. Except for black and white, the paintings & coatings industry knows you want to re-paint your walls every five years so the colors intentionally shift and fade. Many acrylic paintings from the 60s didn't make it, many were experimental like the times.  However, art materials manufacturers started producing decent quality water-based acrylics by the end of the 60s and excellent acrylic art paints by the 80s.  

An early paint, the Bocour brand “Magna” was formulated by Sam Golden, a sort of middle ground between the alkyd resins paints of Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings and the color waves painted by Morris Louis.  Morris Louis painted/poured very fluid paints on to large surfaces. Trying to make large paintings using fluid oil paints really exposes the painter to an excessive amount of solvent. Morris Louis was an early adapter of water-based paints.

Artists have been perfecting the techniques for applying acrylic paints for about 65 year but until now the art market has not favored acrylic paintings. Now paintings  are selling again. The new buyers, collectors and patrons do not seem to care much about the art media of the objects they buy.  

Because art buyers don’t care and the schools prefer to teach water-based painting systems, the art market is seeing more than just a generational shift.  Until 2005, oil paintings were considered the most valuable.  The primacy of oil painting - a tradition more than 500 years old, may be a casualty of The Great Recession. 

For painters using acrylic media, the challenge is establishing value - relative  lightness and darkness. That was ultimately Goethe’s quarrel with Newton’s OPTICKS.  Humans see more contours and shadows than we do bright colors on flat surfaces.  Also do not wash acrylic paints down the drain.  Acrylic paints contain the same pigments as oil paints. Pigments do not belong in local watersheds.  Just because a paint media is water-based does not mean it is safer for the environment.