University of Arizona
College of Fine Arts - School of Art

School of Art Galleries

Olivia Richardson


Chromatics is a multimedia installation that explores the complexities of Blackness and the color black through the lens of color theory to analyze and examine the ways we are taught to see race. Chromatics refers to that which is highly colored; of or relating to color and its phenomena and sensations. Growing up in a predominantly white area, I was made aware of my Blackness at a very young age. While I did not fully understand the intricacies of race, I understood that the color of my skin was a major component of what it meant to be Black. This part of my identity has been complicated by my ever-changing environment, rendering me too Black in some spaces or not Black enough in others. In my art education, I was exposed to western color theory and the work of color theorist Josef Albers through his seminal text, The Interaction of Color. His work posits how our perception of a color shifts based on the proximity of that color to another. I employ this optical phenomenon as a metaphor for race, offering an entry point into understanding the depth of racism’s impact.

This installation comprises eight 2D works on paper and one single-channel video. Appropriation, manipulation and re-presentation are the strategies used to subvert information presented to the viewer as fact or truth in popular culture, mainstream media, and public and political policy. The video work explores the media’s historical part in perpetuating racial stereotypes while the mixed media pieces deconstruct systems of categorization and seeing that have served as justification for white supremacy. Through drawing, painting and screenprint, I examine and deconstruct pigmented color, specifically the CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black or Key) process. The overlapping primary colors that contribute to the color black create an intersectional space that recontextualizes black as a central point that brings all other colors together rather than a marginalized absence of color. Imagery from cartoons, public records, and the social media platform TikTok act as recognizable anchors to these theories. These accessible forms of connection allow for the wide flow of information that goes on to influence generations and in turn, reinforce their thinking towards racial and color coded constructs.

Chromatics offers a space for Black individuals to be seen, to rethink the visuality of Blackness, and to educate others on the various ways Blackness is constructed.

see Fig. 1: Mumia
see Fig. 2: Rich Black
see Fig. 3: Shirley
see Fig. 4: Kodak
see Fig. 5: One Drop
see Fig. 6: Color Wheel
see Fig. 7: Test
see Fig. 8: Compromise
Screenprint, acrylic paint, graphite, color pastels, and colored pencil on stonehenge paper mounted on museum board
Wood mount with brass labels
22.5” x 30.5”

5 minutes

MFA 2022