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The Inspiration behind Synesthesia: Rhapsody in Red (The Red Room)

The Red Room draws inspiration from many pieces and places throughout art history, starting with other Red Rooms.


First and foremost, Henri Matisse’s The Dessert: Harmony in Red (The Red Room), 1908, which is considered by some to be Matisse's masterpiece, and its overall lack of a central focal point. In addition, Matisse’s use of extreme color as in L'Atelier Rouge, 1911. Synesthesia: Rhapsody in Red (The Red Room) is (nearly) all red, just like The Dessert: Harmony in Red (The Red Room) is (nearly) all red. The Red Room lacks a central focal point, rather having many different areas to gaze upon and the paintings within the Red Room use misaligned repeated shapes to create multiple focal points.


The space draws from and responds to Robert Therrien’s RED ROOM presented at the Tate (2000-2007) which housed a collection of 888 found items, many painted a monochromatic red. Different than Therrien, Synesthesia: Rhapsody in Red (The Red Room) presents a space that is intended to be interacted with and rather than customizing mass objects to make them seem unreal or unfamiliar by being in red, chooses objects typically associated with red to create a sense of the unreal through hyper-intense familiarity and similarity. 


The Red Room would not exist if not but for these and many other critical installation artists 


Critically important was the influence of American Artist Allan Kaprow’s environmental works that forced audience participation such as Yard, 1961 and others including his first installation in 1957 that contained sounds played from tape machines spread around the space. Kaprow stated in a 1965 interview that he was interested in filling the gallery up so “when you opened the door you found yourself in the midst of an entire environment.” Synesthesia: Rhapsody in Red (The Red Room) similarly looks to create an entire environment, as if you stepped into the color red. The forced interaction with the velvet curtains in the space requires audience participation to see the full exhibit. Similar to Kaprow use of tape machines, there is the use of speakers and motion sensing technology to play a variety of sounds and music pieces unique to the color red with one composed and played by Charles Pellicane and others curated by Charles Pellicane and produced by Floydwest22.  


Additionally, Marcel Broodthaers’ questioning of the legitimacy of the museum as the arbiter of art value and significance as well as his use of different materials in art and monochromatic works helped inspired the creation of the Red Room Gallery itself is an attack on the museum as arbiter of installation through the use of the monochromatic. 


The space relies on Marcel Duchamp's use of the “ready-made” such as Urinal, 1917, wherein found objects are presented as art. For example, the red telephone, a symbol for alert and danger, is presented as art despite its mass-produced inherent commerciality . 


More contemporarily, the installation is inspired by Japanese Artist Yayoi Kusama in creating immersive sensory experiences through interactive elements such as in the varied Infinity Mirror Rooms. Olafur Eliasson’s creation of immersive environments, particularly the control of air temperature and light such as in The Weather Project from 2008, and the Tate Sensorium, 2015, which created multisensory designs to enhance the exhibition of paintings through smell, taste, sound, and feel that aligned with the painting viewed. 


Artists with Synesthesia were particularly important in understanding the blending of the senses, such as:


Anne Paterson’s works like Pathless Woods, 2013, which encourages overlap in senses through satin ribbon, projections, smells of pine forests, and sounds from composers.  Furthermore, Wassily Kandinsky and his musical paintings who saw red as a “restless violin.” The restless violin you hear in the soundtrack and from the motion sensing technology is partially inspired by Kandinsky’s opinion. 


And, of course, inspiration was drawn from:


Museums that use red gallery walls, such as the Dali Museum, Uffizi Gallery, and the Louvre: The Red Rooms, and critical exhibits on the color red, like "The Red That Changed The World," which premiered at the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 


As well as:


Piet Mondrian, and his use of abstract geometric painting. Victor Vasarely, Hungarian-French artist and leader of the Op art Movement who created optical illusions through geometric abstracts. Richard Anuszkiewicz's vibrant colored Op art pieces.


And lastly: 


Paul Cezzane, the Father of Modern Art, whose interest in the “simplification of naturally occurring forms to their geometric essentials” is evident in many of my works, including Fractal Rose.


But none of that answers why…


Exploring the boundaries of what we can and do associate color to while challenging what is red and contrast red against itself to show the depth of the color is only part of the experience. Read on to learn more and experience it for yourself. 

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