The Getty in the Galleries


left: Sarcophagus of Ammonios, circa 300-400 AD

right: Color Wheel by Steve Johns via Brandon House Design, Inc, circa 1970's


We walked the Getty Villa last week. The gardens were absolutely stunning... one of those unique living exhibitions in the world. And of course, on the inside, there's the Getty Antiquities Collection. It is epic, as you well know. Though I've been there so many times to gaze upon the antiquities, on this last visit, things felt different. The Sarcophagus of Ammonios caught my eye. It's a Romano-Egyptian piece, from 300 AD. As with most funerary pieces, there appears to be much decoration. That said, hardly anything from that period was solely embellished for decorative purposes. It was narrative and invocational, with symbology at its root. And we can feel the echoes of that ancient symbology through the visual lexicon of more contemporary works. On the sarcophagus' end is a color wheel. Looking at it, my mind matched it with the Color Wheel by Steve Johns, a textile piece currently hanging in our gallery. Done nearly two thousand years later, with the same colors, there is a curious thread-- a trace of what the color wheel represented back then, now echoed with new life. See, the visual vernacular we draw from have been here for thousands of years. And I'm just delighting in how they are showing up in these curious ways. It is an eloquent representation of the 1970's, and the evolution of the color wheel, traceable to 300 AD. Far more vivid than its sarcophagus predecessor, it is also far less trivial pursuit. From a basic art encyclopedia, colors in Egypt represent as follows: Red, the colour of power, indicated life and victory... Greensymbolized new life, growth, and fertility, while blue represented creation and rebirth, and yellow stood for the eternal, such as the sun and gold. Johns' color wheel is so far afield from everything else we have in the galleries, but mixes with the antiques so beautifully, and defines the quintessential “pop of color”. It's a wonderful piece.