Bethesda Fine Art

Paul Reed (1919-2015) is one of six original Washington Color School artists. Like the others, Reed explored color using diluted acrylic paint, which he applied directly onto raw canvas. “I have a saying,” Reed told The Washington Post in 2011. “Pollock dripped, Frankenthaler poured, Morris Louis poured. Howard Mehring sprinkled. I blot.”

The artist worked in series over the years, including the “Mandala,” in which color radiated from a circular central image, the “Upstart,” which consisted of hard-edge zigzags and vertical stripes, and the nearly 100 paintings in his “Disk” series, which he called “a matrix for exploiting color.” These works feature blocks of color arranged as a central circle with two triangles positioned at opposing corners of the canvas. The repetitive format allowed Reed to explore the relationships between colors—how they vibrate, complement, and contrast—with purity and precision.

Reed’s work is included in dozens of museum collections across the country, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Detroit Institute of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It was included in the ground-breaking exhibition Washington Color Painters exhibition (1963) at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, and included in the exhibition The Hard-Edged Trend at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in 1966. His work is currently on view in Bethesda Fine Art’s “Washington Color School: 50 Years Later.”


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