Burlington City Arts

Corin Hewitt: The Grey Flame and the Brown Light

July 2, 2010 - September 24, 2010


For The Grey Flame and the Brown Light, Corin Hewitt fused two communal grounds for play - the auditorium stage and the gymnasium floor. For two days a week during the month of July, Hewitt worked both underneath and through the surface of this stage/floor. This rearranged gymnasium floor was initially painted according to the layouts of four seasonal sports. The colors of the marks on the floor were mixtures he had taken from photographs of each season. Each amalgamated color naturally moved toward either grey or brown depending on the quantity of greens, blues, yellows, reds, whites and blacks in each seasonal photograph.

The underside of the stage/floor resembled a section of forest and contained a spectrum of “natural” materials from Vermont. There are both living and dead plant materials as well as insects crawling throughout. Aside from the living leaf matter of the forest, most all of the colors naturally gravitated toward brown and grey. For this exhibit, Hewitt followed a process where he scanned the brown and grey surfaces that he finds in the rocks, ash, soil, and decaying vegetal matter. He used Photoshop to “dissolve” these scans into an average single color. The resulting colors were then supersaturated into vibrant monochromes that are printed out and shed from the piece. These monochromes amplified the vibrancy and fertility that these browns and grey contained. With time, the monochrome photographs themselves moved toward browns and grays as they decayed.

Hewitt also used pedestals that were the same four “seasonal” Vermont colors to raise and lower the material through the stage. While he was under the floor isolating, forming, and shaping this material the process was documented via a live video feed in the back room of the gallery. Studio lights with three primary colored filters illuminated all the activities below the stage.

This focus on the potency of browns and grays was Hewitt’s way of thinking about the ground as an active space. Using the decomposed colors of brown and grey as a way to consider the compression of color over time, Hewitt brought vitality to a natural history of color. He engaged the cycles of material that make up the ground as a location of fertility as well a place of history. Hewitt’s process in this work examined how these cycles of existence, compression, and dissolution gives us our sense of firmament.


Quotes from: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on Color (d. 1951):

“Why is there no brown nor grey light?”


“A natural history of colors would have to report on their occurrence in nature, not on their essence. Its propositions would have to be temporal ones.”


“In everyday life we are virtually surrounded by impure colours. All the more remarkable that we have formed a concept of pure colours.”


…”internal properties” of a colour gradually occur to us, which we hadn’t thought of at the outset. And that can show us the course of a philosophical investigation…“


“Brown light”. Suppose someone were to suggest that a traffic light be brown.”

“Imagine we were told that a substance burns with a grey flame. You don’t know the colours of the flames of all substances: so why shouldn’t such a thing be possible?”


This exhibition was sponsored by TruexCullins Architecture and Interior Design and The H. Keith Wagner Partnership