Sanford Wurmfeld – E-Cyclorama at The Neuberger Museum of Art

To describe E-Cyclorama as a painting by Sanford Wurmfeld on the inside of a huge cylinder is to miss the point.

This massive panorama of color, viewed by stepping inside the cylinder, makes it possible to experience the power, dynamics and beauty of color.

On the cylinder’s walls, color moves through the entire spectrum, but the transitions are so subtle that it is impossible to be sure where one color ends and the next begins. Color becomes intense, independent and dynamic—a sort of surround-sound painting.

As the eye moves across the painted surface, the impact of the shifting color is enhanced by the changes of depth and distance, increasing the uncertainty of what is really being seen. The effect is hypnotic.

The cyclorama is a twenty-first century version of the once popular nineteeth century panorama paintings which were inspired by the original concept invented by Robert Barker in Edinburgh in 1787.

The “E” stands for elliptical, its oval shape inspired, according to the artist, by the oval plan found in Baroque churches. The effect is baroque, too, as the form exaggerates the optical illusions of the work. Wurmfeld spent a year painting E-Cyclorama. On close inspection, one can see why: the slight variations in tone were precisely measured and meticulously applied.

The exhibition at the Neuberger also includes 41 mid-size paintings from 1971-2005 displaying the evolution of color ideas in Sanford Wurmfeld’s work.

The cyclorama structure is raised eight feet off the ground on a platform. Spectators enter from beneath by a stairway that brings them into the center of the work to view the painting that surrounds them. The cylinder measures 37 ½’ x 27 ½’ x 8 ½’. Wurmfeld spent a year painting E-Cyclorama. On close inspection, one can see why: ” lang=”EN-GB”> the slight variations in tone were precisely measured and meticulously applied in overlapping grids that took the artist a year to plan, and another year to execute. One hundred and nine (109) colors were used.

Panoramic paintings were first created in Edinburgh in 1788 by the painter Robert Barker. A form of the panoramic painting was adapted by Italian Baroque artists whose painted church ceilings had the effect of lifting the spectator out beyond the actual architecture of the church into a glorious world beyond. Bernini used the dramatic ellipse effect at the Vatican. From the 1780s onwards, the panorama was a form used to display perspective representations or scenes. Panoramas became a popular form of visual entertainment.

Sanford Wurmfeld (b. 1942) teaches at Hunter College, CUNY. He studied at Dartmouth College. He lived and worked Europe, and said his early paintings were inspired by Kline, Pollock, de Kooning, Rothko, and Monet. In 1968, his work was included in The Art of the Real 1948-68 at the Museum of Modern Art (the youngest artist in this survey exhibition of post-war American art. During the 1970s, he taught at Cooper Union and California State College. He painted and exhibited continuously, experimenting in various mediums. By the time he saw the Panorama Mesdag in 1981, he had consolidated the idea of combining changing-sized squares with multiple color patterns.

The Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York was founded more than 30 years ago as a cultural and intellectual center for modern and contemporary art. Its core collection of 20th century paintings and sculpture contains primary examples of the movements and individuals who shaped modern art. The tenth largest college art museum in the nation with an internationally renowned collection of over 6,000 works of art in all media, the Museum is named after financier and founding patron Roy R. Neuberger, whose extensive art collection forms the core of the Museum’s holdings and who continues to be an active and involved donor. “>It is the fundamental mission of the Neuberger Museum of art to educate the broadest possible audience in, about and through the visual arts. The Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York is located at 735 Anderson Hill Road in Purchase, New York (Westchester). 914-251-6100. Visit : www.neuberger.org

Top