Try googling Dale McKinney. Got it? Yeah, he doesn’t have a website. What you will find is a plethora of artists’ sites that discuss him as an influence. I’m sure McKinney prefers being listed in people’s hearts rather than in pdf files. While digging through the Gardiner Art Gallery permanent collection, McKinney’s painting, Old Red New Green, really stuck out to me. It is unusual, pretty hypnotizing, and heavily contrasted with complementary colors.
Dale McKinney, a former professor at Oklahoma State University, was a kinetic artist. He taught sculpture, but was also a painter. His work was very avant-garde. According to Bob Heatly, a former student, he was highly skilled in color theory. He would use a “complementary color to cause an edge to vibrate or seem to move on the canvas.” This is exactly what I experienced when I first saw Old Red New Green. Design and composition were very important to McKinney, and he stressed this in great detail to his students.
The piece was completed in 1964. It is acrylic on canvas and is 49×36 inches. It is very much a modernist painting, and appears to be a landscape. Line is very prominent through the piece and really moves the eye around the canvas. Initially, I’m attracted to the blue circular orb against a vibrant red background. Then, my attention is directed upward by the line shifts. The variations in line patterns are contrasted by the strict vertical line space in the sky. This gives the piece a real sense of depth and movement. The interpretation really is up to the viewer, since it is an abstract landscape. This is another reason it seems so modern to me. He was experimenting with line and color rather than regurgitating what he saw.
McKinney’s work seems to be very articulate and thoughtful. Even though childish figures and shapes are used, they are contrasted by a level of craft and hypnotism caused by the kinetic use of color and line. His work, life and teaching continue to inspire artists, and will do so even more when he finds a new home in the upcoming Oklahoma State Art Museum!
Author Tiffany McAnarney is a senior enrolled in ART 3683: History of 20th Century Art.