HC221H - 12,000 Colors

Professor: Christopher Michlig

4.00 credits

CRN 12239: Tuesday & Thursday, 10:00-11:20am @ CHA 301

12,000 Colors is a transhistorical, interdisciplinary survey of color - this class will explore a constellation of scientific, theoretical, and cultural developments that shape our past, present, and future relationship to color. The course is structured chromatically - each week a deep dive into the science, history, and cultural conditions of a single color. We will engage a broad range of texts, films, artworks, audio and musical compositions, and scientific studies. 12,000 Colors will also take advantage of on-campus resources such as historically significant color portfolios in the UO Library's collections, the Lokey Lab's microanalysis, surface analysis, electron microscopy technology, the UO College of Design's faculty art studios, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. Our modern understanding of light and color stems from experiments conducted in 1672 by Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's “Theory of Colors” published in 1810 in which he wrote about the psychodynamics of colors relative to mood and emotion, Albert Munsell's 1913 “three-dimensional” color system which involved the use of spectrometer/photometer instrumentation, the rapid developments of color theory among the faculty and student at the Bauhaus school from 1919-1933 where an understanding of color was characterized as transcendent, “…a language of sorts that signifies independent of cultural differences, time period, or aesthetic movement, and most notoriously.” And Josef Albers’ 1962 portfolio "Interaction of Color," the central thesis of which is that there are no absolutes in color - that the perception of color is influenced by the surrounding context of neighboring colors, lighting conditions, size and quantity, what we look at before and after. By the end of the 1950s, all of biological and chemical science had been transformed by a rapid succession of advancements in instrumentation, analysis, and application - from gas chromatography to X-ray diffraction, from computers to tissue culture, from pharmaceuticals to synthetic dyes and pigments. The midcentury deluge of advancements in science and industry were confluent also with seismic socio-political shifts - which in turn broadened the territory of inquiry in the social sciences and human psychology – and the history of color is dynamically intertwined at every turn.