Without light, there is no color. The simple fact that all perceived color depends on light is at the core of Matt McClune’s work for Remembering the Future. In the context of the project, the Burgundy-based American painter has focused on two collections at Dresden Technical University: The Historical Pigments and Dye Collection, and the Collection of Color Study. As an artist, McClune usually works with pure pigments to create his color field paintings. And at first glance, a collaboration with these two university collections seems obvious. However, during his artist residency in Dresden, his confrontation with the collections, the discussions with the scientists involved, and the individual artistic post- processing, McClune decided to look at ways of working with color, material, and composition that differ from a solely painterly approach, allowing him to combine various forms of color and material with aspects of human perceptual conditions in general and our sensitivity to color specifically. From the start, Matt McClune’s goal has been to develop works of art both immediate and meaningful to a contemporary audience, which are, at the same time, thoroughly grounded in a local-historical as well as institutional context. The latter is apparent from the title of the work, Theoretical Treatment and Empirical Rules, which pays homage to Horst Hartmann, curator at the Historical Pigments and Dye Collection of the TU Dresden, with whom McClune collaborated.
The nineteenth-century Saxon textile industry’s need for technical progress in dye chemistry was one of the reasons the Technical University in Dresden was founded and why it developed so quickly. Several essential dye compounds, still important today, were developed here.
These historic connections served as starting point for Matt McClune. Using the chemical structures of specific dye compounds, he has transferred the two-dimensional, drawn structures into a three-dimensional plotter in order to examine them as abstract linear compositions. In the course of thinking about how we study and represent color, his more structural approach has widened towards a broader and more sensual “staging” of light and color, which demonstrates the interplay of these qualities, their effects on the beholder, and an interest in process.
In the end, the inspiration that he has drawn from the history of the university and its collections resonate in the background, while the artistic installation with assemblages of chemical structures, pigments, colored lights, and wall paper take on a complexity of their own.