Yellow Wall (Section I + II) is a striking work from Robert Mangold's early breakthrough series of so-called Wall paintings. The piece consists of two notched panels constructed from standardized four-by-eight-foot plywood sheets nailed to thick supports turned sideways. A narrow metal strip outlines the distinctive cutouts, whose spaces allude to openings for windows and doors in actual walls. A horizontal wooden ledge running across both panels projects from the surface, casting a sharp shadow. Such architectural references contribute to the three-dimensional object quality of Yellow Wall, which may be characterized as a painted construction rather than a traditional painting.
The frontal surfaces of Yellow Wall are uniformly painted in a monochromatic yellow matte paint. Mangold paid close attention to the color and its application, deliberately choosing shades that were "ordinary" or "taken for granted... paper-bag brown, cement grey, brick-red, manila-envelope yellow, etc." He applied the paint in the "simplest manner" to create an impersonal surface that alludes to the urban industrial environment of Manhattan. Mangold left the edges of the piece raw and unpainted, implying further additions. Conversely, the artist intended each section to constitute "it's own kind of total," initially exhibiting Section I of Yellow Wall by itself. "I liked the idea of a section of something implying more and yet being a complete thing," Mangold said. "I was in a way testing what makes a complete shape and what doesn't, and what is or is not arbitrary."
Shortly after completing the Wall series Mangold replaced the heavy presence of the walls with more subtle shapes and delicate coloration on lighter, flatter supports; work of this kind has occupied him since. Yellow Wall is a rare, large-scale, early work that heralds several of Mangold's abiding interests: the careful, all-over balance of shape and color and the tension of an unresolved part-to-whole relationship. Beyond the confines of his own career, however, the essential formal elements of Yellow Wall -- modularity, seriality, standardized scale, and the uninflected application of commercial color -- were also shared by the broader community of minimal and conceptual art that was beginning to emerge at that time.
Biographical Information Robert Mangold was born in North Towanda, New York. He studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art and received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University in 1963. As a student, Mangold was profoundly moved by his initial encounters with abstract expressionism, particularly the simplified composition and matter-of-fact paint handling of Barnett Newman, and he aspired to abandon the excessive subjectivity of abstract expressionist painting yet somehow retain its scale and power. Shortly before graduating from Yale, Mangold and his wife, the artist Sylvia Plimack Mangold, moved to Manhattan. Mangold briefly worked at the Museum of Modern Art, where he met the artists Sol LeWitt and Robert Ryman as well as critic Lucy Lippard. Mangold soon adopted the "literal," matter-of-fact forms of art making associated with minimalism and pop art. Yet Mangold is essentially unclassifiable, for the works of his long and productive career reflect a changing artistic sensibility and a complex attention to the subtleties of visual perception. One of the most important artists of his generation, Mangold is represented in museums and collections worldwide.
The artist; purchased 22 November 2004 through (PaceWildenstein, New York) by NGA.
- Walls and Areas, Fischbach Gallery, New York, 1965.
- Robert Mangold: Paintings as Wall, Works from 1964 to 1993, Hallen für neue Kunst, Schauffhausen, Switzerland; RENN Espace d'Art Contemporain, Paris; other venues, 1993-1995, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Loan for display with permanent collection, Hallen für neue Kunst, Schauffhausen, Swizterland, 1995-2004.
- A Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958-1968, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2004, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Lippard, Lucy R. "Robert Mangold and the Implications of Monochrome." Art and Literature 9 (Summer 1966): repro. 123.
- Waldman, Diane. Robert Mangold. Exh. cat. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1971: unpaginated, repro. of Yellow Wall Section I.
- Minimal + Conceptual Art aus der Sammlung Panza. Exh. cat. Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel, 1980: 38.
- Abstraction, Non-Objectivity, Realism: Twentieth-Century Painting: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Exh. cat. The Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University, Hamilton, New York, 1987: 69.
- Lehmann, Ulrike. Robert Mangold - Linie Form Farbe: Werkentwicklung von 1964 bis 1994. Nuremberg, 1995: 26, 30, 31, figs. 5 and 6.
- Freeman, Peter. Robert Mangold: Early Works, 1963-66. New York, 2004: no. 35, repro.