Character List for Art
Marc - a very good friend of Serge’s, but not necessarily a modern art fan. Marc is somewhere
in his 40s, an aeronautical engineer, a practical, down to earth man. He is not married but has
been seeing the unseen Paula for some time.
Serge - a 40-something dermatologist who has had his eye on this white-on-white painting by the
modernist Antrios for some time now. He does not appreciate Marc’s disapproval of his choice,
and feels that Marc sneers at its abstract style, and, by extension, at himself.
Yvan - just a bit younger than Marc and Serge, Yvan is still “finding himself”: his new job with
his fiancee’s family is in stationery, though he’s been working in textiles. And the wedding is
putting Yvan on edge: if his mother comes, his father’s second wife won’t; if she doesn’t come
she’ll never speak to Yvan again; his fiancée’s mother doesn’t want the second wife there, etc.,
etc.. Yvan is generally a bit edgy, and this tension between Marc and Serge is just the last straw.
A neutral space that will alternately represent Marc’s, Serge’s and Yvan’s apartments.
I work with color all the time. I don't think of
myself as making white paintings. . . . I'm a
painter. White paint is my medium. . . . The
white just happened because it's a paint and it
—Robert Ryman, 1971
Interview with Phyllis Tuchman,
A native of France, Ms. Reza began her theatre career as an actor, appearing in new plays as well
as standard works by Moliere and Marivaux. In 1987 she wrote the play Conversations After a
Burial, which won the Moliere Award for Best Author, a SACD New Talent Award, the Johnson
Foundation Award, and was subsequently performed across Europe and South America. She
then translated and adapted Kafka’s The Metamorphosis for Roman Polanski and was nominated
for the Moliere Award for Best Fringe Production. Her next play, The Unexpected Man, enjoyed
successful productions in France, throughout Scandinavia and in Germany. Art has been
produced worldwide and translated into 20 languages. (Christopher Hampton, author of the
English version, is also the author of Les Liaisons Dangerous, among other plays.)
This British playwright has had as much success with translations as he has in his own career.
His own pieces include When Did You Last See My Mother?, Eclipse, Savages and Tales from
Hollywood. He has translated Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Uncle Vanya, Hedda Gabler, A Doll’s
House, Don Juan and Don Juan Comes Back from the War, Ghosts, The Wild Duck and Tartuffe.
He has adapted several of his scripts into screenplays; he has also written for television.
Synopsis: Serge’s purchase of a white-on-white Antrios for a sizable price gets his friend Marc
wondering what on earth could prompt him to such a foolish thing, and what exactly their
friendship is based on. Serge has his doubts about their relationship too when Marc makes his
disapproval obvious. When Yvan tries to act as peacemaker, the others turn on him, nearly
driving him to a breakdown. (Does friendship mean never having to say you’re sorry?)
White is here used for purely functional reasons
because as a tone/color it: (a) allows for the maximum
reflection of light—positive control, (b) enables light to
be controlled negatively—by allowing for the varying
intensity and direction of the resultant shadow, (c)
makes it possible for color to be created
physiologically—by the complementary shadow color.
White as a surface/color is the most effective middle
term in the equation between light (the most intangible)
and the relief (the most physical). The symbolic or
metaphorical use of white has no functional role in the
creation of the work—however, it is available for the
spectator to use according to whatever frame of
reference/context be brought to the perception of the
Stage of Relationship Development
From: Communication and the Sexes, Barbara Bate
Quoted with kind permission of Geva Theatre
1. The individual exists, outside any particular relationship.
2. The invitation stage involves trying out contact with various people (brief meetings may
produce no sense of personal connection).
3. Exploration through talk occurs with one person who offers possible compatibility (either or
both may end their relating here).
4. Intensity or euphoria occurs, in which the other is idealized and talk is intensely personal (a
stage of total immersion).
5. Revising and reevaluating may occur, and the likely chances for the relationship to succeed
are assessed (termination may occur here).
6. Bonding is an act of committing selves to a future of intimacy with the other (one may be
ready sooner than the other).
The maintenance or navigation process occurs after bonding, and can be called stage 7, which
involves finding a workable structure for the ongoing relationship and dealing with changes that
8. Differentiating means increasing focus on the individual instead of on the pair.
9. Disintegrating means the falling apart of the paring bond, whether or not the two people
10. Stagnating means operating on a non-intimate basis but not breaking off the bond officially.
11. Terminating occurs either through divorce or specific messages to each other that the
relationship is ending.
12. Partners return to individual status, changed by the experience of having been in a
black + color = black value
white + color = white value
white, white monochrome
black + white = grey
grey + white
grey + white + white
grey + white + white + white
in white, three values of white lightened
white ambition, maybe white utopia.
—Antonio Calderara, San Remo, 1973
A Brief Who’s Who and What’s What
Paul Valery - 1871 - 1945. French poet, essayist and critic perhaps best know for his poem Le
Jeune Parque (1917), and the collections Album of Old Verse (1920) and Charmes ou Poems
(1922). He was a close friend of Andre Gide; he admired Edgar Allen Poe, J.-K. Huysmans and
Stephane Mallarme, the symbolist poet. After 1891, frustrated at being unsuccessful as a
symbolist writer (and over an unrequited love), Valery was no longer interested in expressing
emotion but dedicated himself to a purely rationalist point of view, yet his best poetry came after
that. The Encyclopedia Britannica notes that his "most idiosyncratic works are all variations on
the theme of tension between the desire for contemplation [the poet’s life] and the will to action
[the critical life, in the sense that one raises objections in order that change occur expediently]."
Leonardo DaVinci became his idol. After 1922 Valery lectured throughout Europe; he was
elected to the Academie Francais in 1925. He is still revered in some intellectual quarters.
Seneca’s De Vita Beata - Lucius Anaeus Seneca (4 BC to AD 65) was the author of many works
and an advisor to more than one high-ranking Roman politician. His Of Holy Life "considers
various aspects of the life and qualities of a Stoic wise man," an individual who, like Brutus,
Caesar's assassin, displays almost no overt emotion but simply accepts both good and bad events
as part of life. The Stoics were highly regarded by many Romans because, no matter what the
consequences, they got things done.
Ehlers-Danlos syndrome - According to The Merck Manual of Medical Information, this is a
"very rare hereditary connective tissue disorder that results in unusually flexible joints, very
elastic skin, and fragile tissues. . . . Often wide scars form over bony parts of the body. . . . Small,
hard, round lumps may develop under the skin and may be seen under x-rays." There is no
simple cure for this condition.
An art based on the forms created by the
subconscious and equilibrated by the reason
constitutes a veritable expression of being and a
synthesis of the historical moment. . . .
It is an art in accordance with which the
human being functions and manifests itself as an
entity. . .
We conceive of this synthesis
as an addition of physical elements:
color, sound, movement, time, space,
integrating a physical-psychical
unity, color (the element of space),
motion (that develops in time and
space ) are the fundamental forms
of the new art which comprehends
the four dimensions of existence,
time and space.
"White Manifesto," 1946
From: Basically White. Jean Arp, et al. London: Institute of Contemporary Arts, 1974.
Monochrome is a term used for works of art in a single color. . . . In general the term is reserved
for objects (paintings, reliefs and also sculptures) on which a single color has been applied on
If taken literally, this color has to have the same hue and tone all over . . . . However, as
no painting can ever be entirely free from its material properties and be isolated from the
conditions imposed upon it by its environment, the absolute in monochrome is purely theoretical.
There I would prefer to use the term in a more general fashion and apply it to works of art done
in a single color, with a limited range of gradations in tone, hue and lightness, achieved either by
a mixture of pigments or by articulation of the surface.
Monochrome could not gain more than an incidental value in Western art until the
Renaissance notion of paint giving a view of the outer world was abandoned: roughly in the
time between impression and cubism. . . . Starting with the impressionists color had been freed
from its imitative function in art, and had become available for manipulation, corresponding to
the demands of the painting. . . . The opulence of color that is displayed by late impressionist
paintings when seen close by flows away when they are looked at from a distance: they gain an
all-over quality that makes them . . . predecessors of monochrome art.
The picture plane’s definitive declaration of independence was signed by the cubists.
More obviously than in impressionism monochrome plays a part in cubism, but an entirely
different one: not by enhancing color, but by suppressing it, Picasso and Braque thought they
were able to establish a completely new concept of form and space. . . . In the decisive phase [of
cubism] they confined themselves nearly entirely to the use of a single greyish brown in different
shades. . . .
Since World War II both main tendencies toward monochrome have returned in a much
more radical way. Yves Klein, who programmatically called himself Le Monochrome, thought
his primary contribution to be the liberation of color from material bonds . . . . Lines and shapes
in his opinion were too narrow limitations for color. In his booklet La Depassement de la
Problematique de l’Art, published in 1959, he wrote: I am against line and all its consequences:
contours, shapes, composition. All paintings, whatever they may be, figurative or abstract,
remind me of prison windows and the lines in them are exactly like bars. Far away, where color
dominates, is liberty! . . .
More than any color white is sensitive to light; it clarifies the spatial modulations of the
reliefs, and at the same time unveils the subtle textural irregularities of the material that has been
used, giving the work a tactile quality that is slightly reminiscent of Picasso’s or Braque’s cubist
In modern European art . . . the neutrality and objectivity implicit in white are mentioned
by several artists as their main reasons for applying it in their art. Sensitivity to light however . .
. is traditionally associated with aesthetic considerations: it transcends the neutral and the
common . . . . As soon as white is applied to immaculate surfaces of pure form, it tends to
express harmony and classical order [lending the most modern pieces a traditional form for their
advanced perspective on life].
Only white was left.
--Jan Schoonhoven, 1973
The Eye of the Beholder
Marge Betley, Dramaturg, Geva Theatre
Here I sit with the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” planting its flag firmly in my
brain. And then what? How do we approach questions of value, virtuosity and taste? Some
people look at a painting by Mark Rothko, with the large, warm blocks of color that float next to
each other and think, “This has a serene beauty.” Others think, “My three year old could do
that.” One person would pay a great sum of money for a white-on-white canvas by Robert
Ryman [see above]; another would find it hardly worth the cost of the paint. When Georges
Seurat created a canvas full of dots—points of color and light—form and content and audience
fused inextricably in works of art that were ultimately made complete in the eye of the spectator
who unconsciously extrapolated a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts. The same
holds true for Monet’s paintings of his gardens at Giverny. In their own time, both artists were
considered radical innovators. Now, those works are considered popular, mainstream, tame and
traditional. . . .
How do we evaluate beauty and virtuosity in art, especially when content (what exactly is the
pile of paint splotches supposed to be?) is abstract, or seemingly absent? How does one judge
excellence when the spectrum of form is exploded and expanded geometrically? Or when the
idea behind the artwork seems to take precedence over its execution (a concept that has made
billions in the world of the dot.coms on the stock market).
The simplistic and yet ever-so-complex answer is “context.” To evaluate, or simply
make sense of a work of art, it helps if the audience has a sense of the context (and any work of
art is incomplete without the audience, where it’s a play or a painting). Context comes, in part,
from simple exposure. Love at first sight is rare, unless we happen to be one of those
adventurous types who revels in the unknown. New kinds of art, or theatre, or music seem
difficult in proportion to how unknown they are to us.
Think back to Seurat and Monet—or even Andy Warhol. Does Warhol’s Campbell Soup
Can really become more mainstream with time, or is it just our perception of it that changes? Is
The Simpsons television show less shocking than it used to be, or have we simply absorbed the
context for that kind of programming into our collective consciousness?
If you were going to buy a painting for your home, would it be Marc’s idyllic landscape
scene, or Serge’s white-on-white canvas?