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Jaan Aare Poldaas

Canadian, born 1948

© 1990 Jaan Poldaas

Vertical Composition (Blue Black), 1990

Oil on canvas
90 x 36 inches (228.6 x 91.4 cm)
Bequest of Arthur B. Michael, by exchange, and Sarah Norton Goodyear Fund, 2012

Although Jaan Poldaas studied to be an architect, he has emerged as one of the most highly acclaimed minimalist painters in Canada. Known for his vibrant sense of color, Poldaas often uses enamels straight out of the can, applying them directly to the canvas. He is interested in exploring the interaction between primary and secondary colors in relation to black. Concept and process are also at the heart of his practice, specifically selection and distribution, an approach that often involves other artists. In his “MSC” series, 1974, he even went so far to distribute his work through alternative means, by sending books with selected color combinations from his paintings to other artists. In another series, “Work for Four Painters,” 1977, he invited three other painters—Michael Balfe (American, born 1950), Ric Evans (Canadian, born 1946), and Robert McNealy (American, born 1942)—to participate by choosing a color for one quadrant of twenty-four four-paneled paintings. Each selected one color for each of the paintings without knowing the choices made by the other artists.

While these works appear formal to the eye, by emphasizing color analysis and the process of selecting his color palette, Poldaas set himself apart from the uniformity of Minimalist painting. Vertical Composition (Blue Black), 1990, is an iconic example of Poldaas’s musings on color and concept, hailing from a series in which he combines predetermined shades of red, yellow, and blue with black, resulting in works that represent all possible color combinations.