Abstract painting

How Alma Thomas Came to Her Seminal Style of Vibrant Abstract Painting

Thomas is best known for her distinctive mosaic-like paintings, characterized by a heavy arrangement of warm blocks of yellow, orange and red, bleeding into a smaller circular pattern of cool blues and purples. She began these works in 1966 with the painting Resurrectionmade for his first gallery exhibition at Howard University.

His interest in the emotive properties of color began after reading the work of Johannes Itten on color theory. As she pursued abstraction in the 1960s, Itten’s research into color and emotion led Thomas to use color as a force that can positively and negatively alter space and mood.

Thomas composed the mosaics for her Whitney exhibit with strips of painted canvas that she cut out and placed on a stretched canvas to form a grid, as in Untitled (1968). This technique allowed Thomas to carefully create the color of each work over time, instead of painting all of his colors at once. X-rays of some of the “Everything’s Beautiful” paintings reveal that Thomas is a masterful color corrector: the excessive build-up of color in some areas suggests that she added extra layers of darker colors for contrast and that she used white paint in some places to dilute the intensity.