• Everyday colors: Katharina Fritsch recalls Faber-Castell art supplies from her grandfather's garage in Eight Paintings with Eight Colors, 1990-91.

    Credit: MOMA

    Everyday colors: Katharina Fritsch recalls Faber-Castell art supplies from her grandfather's garage in Eight Paintings with Eight Colors, 1990-91.

The paint chip takes the poetry out of color, rendering it as a plain commodity. Or so one might think. But starting in the 1950s, artists began to experiment with—and celebrate—what standardized hues could do. “Color Chart,” an exhibit on view at The Museum of Modern Art in New York through May 12, shows the spectrum of possibilities available in mass-produced and ready-made color.

Alkyd-based commercial house paints introduced an industrial look and what Frank Stella described as a “nice dead kind of color.” The artist, who formerly made his living painting apartments in New York, used Benjamin Moore house paint for his 1962 Gran Cairo. Swiss artist Niele Toroni also used Benjamin Moore paint, and a #50 brush, to paint dots exactly 30 centimeters apart on a MoMA gallery wall—it's one of several works commissioned specifically for the show.

It will come as no surprise that Benjamin Moore is sponsoring MoMA's “Color Chart.” But the inspiration on display isn't limited to paint. Ellsworth Kelly played with squares of store-bought colored paper in his 1951 Colors for a Large Wall, a nearly 8-foot-square grid composed of 64 separate canvases. Under their standard-issue black jackets, museum security guards wear vests that France's Daniel Buren created out of commercially available silk. And Jim Lambie has created a floor installation of vinyl tape, in the museum's Agnes Gund Garden Lobby. A video showing the exacting process of taping the floor (mercifully sped up) is available at youtube.com; search using the name of the work: ZOBOP!


  • The experience of painting apartments inspired Frank Stella to use house paint for his 1962 work Gran Cairo.
    The experience of painting apartments inspired Frank Stella to use house paint for his 1962 work Gran Cairo.
  • Everyday colors: Red Devil- brand paint chips, collected by artist Jim Dine as a youth working in his father's hardware store, inspired The Studio: Red Devil Color Chart No. 1, 1963

    Credit: MOMA

    Everyday colors: Red Devil- brand paint chips, collected by artist Jim Dine as a youth working in his father's hardware store, inspired The Studio: Red Devil Color Chart No. 1, 1963


  • Squares of colored construction paper led to Ellsworth Kelly creating Colors for a Large Wall in 1951.
    Squares of colored construction paper led to Ellsworth Kelly creating Colors for a Large Wall in 1951.
  • Everyday colors: Vinyl tape is used in Jim Lambie's ZOBOP!, 2006

    Credit: MOMA

    Everyday colors: Vinyl tape is used in Jim Lambie's ZOBOP!, 2006