Collection 1950s–1970s

Jo Baer. Primary Light Group: Red, Green, Blue. 1964-65 478

Oil and acrylic on canvas, three panels, Each panel 60 x 60" (152.4 x 152.4 cm). Philip Johnson Fund. © 2024 Jo Baer

Artist, Jo Baer: My name is Jo Baer and I was born in 1929. Wow.

This is a triptych. A triptych is one work. When I made it over fifty years ago, I wanted to see something I'd never seen before.

The paintings have different colors. And the colors give a different mood in every case. There's something called Mach bands, which have to do with the amount of optical light that the brain sees, that the mind sees, having to do with contrast effects on the borders. Not that I knew about any of this until later on when I saw what was happening and looked it up. Ernst Mach, the great psychologist, physicist, philosopher discovered this.

And the more contrast there is between a light and a dark, it will make one side much lighter than the other. It will it give it light. And especially if it has white next to it, there is a glare that comes over so that these color lines look like neon.

The paintings are alive. They're alive because they change if you walk. The white has this banding on it--it glows in a way that is more than just reflected light. I discovered that I could make portals of it. I could make a light that drags you in.