Mark Golden on Paint

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Acrylic controversy raised again…

25 April, 2016 (09:53) | Plastic Arts

Several articles have appeared in popular magazines and picked up by blogs that once again raise the controversy that Plastics degrade, acrylics are a plastic, therefore acrylic paintings are going to degrade. I was reminded that in 1992 I wrote a letter to Charles Osgood who did one of his poems and a segment on CBS about this issue after reading 3rd hand reports from a conservation program about Space Suits beginning to deteriorate. Again in 2016, I have to again defend these materials. Thankfully after these ensuing 24 years even more information has been researched and written about the lightfastness of the acrylic polymer. I thought I’d share my letter which seems to address exactly the same issues raised 24 years earlier. (No response from Mr. Osgood)

November 14, 1992
Mr. Charles Osgood
513 West 57th Street
New York, NY 10019

Dear Mr. Osgood,

I am sorry I have never written before, because I have so often enjoyed your commentary and I am a great fan of yours. I apologize, now because the reason for my correspondence is not for your years of wonderful observation, but alas to complain about a very recent piece you produced regarding the degradation of modern materials.

You noted the work on the space suits deteriorating by Dr. Mary Baker of the Smithsonian. It is a very ironic situation that these marvels of science, produced to withstand seemingly everything and even things we had to invent in our imagination, could not withstand chlorine from a swimming pool and time. Yet, you ended your story with an mistaken idea that has had very serious consequences for me and my company, Golden Artist Colors, Inc., a manufacturer of artist acrylic paint. You ended your commentary with a statement that oils have lasted 500 years and that acrylics would last only decades.

I was at the conference in Washington at the American Chemical Society where this paper and others regarding polymers in museums was given. Although you may have an AP reporters version of the conference, there was no indication that acrylics would last only decades. There were papers presented indicating that the same conservation and preservation techniques used with oils would not be appropriate with acrylics. In this observation I hardily agree. During a review of paintings at the Modern in New York, it was found that acrylic paintings have stood up quite well especially in comparison to oils completed at a similar time. We know quite well that oils yellow, crack and cleave, and that they last 500 years is due to the profound influence of the dedicated conservators who have preserved, inpainted and protected these pieces.

Since acrylics have actually only been available for artists since the late 1940’s, I do not have real time evidence that suggest acrylics will last 500 years. Ageing studies though, looking at artificially aged oils vs acrylics, have shown that the acrylics have remained quite stable in comparison. Acrylics possess a remarkable trait, as opposed to most modern and ancient polymers, in that they remain quite transparent to the damaging effects of Ultra violet radiation. It is this fact that has propelled acrylics into the sphere of the professional artist.

Our belief that modern plastics are simply a cheap imitation of the real thing is quite difficult to overcome since there are so many indications that this has been the case throughout the history of plastics. Our feeling about plastics are further shaded by their negative impact on our environment. That plastics simply do not degrade and will remain a permanent fixture on our planet….. Please hold that thought!

A Plastic Nightmare

I heard your commentary the other day
and it left me feeling much dismay
about the problems with plastic space suit rotting
who would have thought they would even have spotting

They were made to withstand meteors and gasses,
cosmic rays, fire blaze, acid sprays and splashes.
But now the Museums are filled up with fright
That suits made with such care won’t even last the night

Now cold storage won’t do, that just makes things much worse
As if that’s not enough, you go on with your curse
To tell us that the modern paintings we cherish
If they’re done in plastic, they too will soon perish.

To this I say wait, you’ve got me confused
Aren’t our plastics simply misused.
If the plastics we trash are filling our landfills
We should be going there and grabbing our handfuls.

If the plastics in our landfills won’t disintegrate
But the plastic on our paintings simply just can’t wait
Wouldn’t it be easy to just reverse this mess
And throw away our paint and just use all the rest.

If by the error of science our diapers won’t degrade
Might I suggest that that one could be swayed
To believe if we try we could make a new plastic
if painted on a canvas would be just fantastic!

I think we have. Thank you for your time.

Warmest regards,

Mark Golden, President
Golden Artist Colors, Inc.




Comment from Jennifer Longworth
Time: June 14, 2016, 10:51 am

Hello Mark,
We knew each other way back when I worked at Sepp Leaf. I always had fun enlightening gilders about the merits of Golden products. Your article reminds me of tales my dad, a polymer chemist at Dupont, told about the changing quality of plastics – they have undergone a huge evolution (happily!) Now I am a full-time artist and using your products for a variety of my pieces, including jewelry. Would love to catch up with you sometime and show you how I use some of your products now, my studio is in Hoboken. kind regards, Jennifer

Comment from Samuel A Smith
Time: July 20, 2016, 2:41 am

I have seen Acrylic Lacquer used on many cars that I have worked on from the 1950s & 1960s and it is a very durable substance. Some of these cars have been left for years in the sun or in old dusty garages. The acrylic still looks semi-new.

Comment from James Johnson
Time: June 14, 2017, 1:08 am

Awesome response Mark! acrylic paint is vital for many of my projects and I believe it’s vital for people like yourself to stick up for it.

Comment from Mark
Time: June 14, 2017, 10:54 am

Thanks James, I am confident that more professional artists are aware of the false claims made about modern acrylics. That it still exists in its various forms needs to be challenged with real evidence. It is our hope to continue to provide the research to the public to assure that artists can have confidence in the materials we produce. The legacy of art of our times demands that. Best regards, Mark

Comment from Kevin Queen
Time: September 23, 2017, 3:25 pm

You guys should have sued him back then for saying that. I see your company is doing just fine today. So I guess in a way no long term harm was done. Just one more uninformed fool in the media, I see fake news has been around for a very long time.

Comment from Sajid Bashir
Time: February 7, 2018, 12:54 pm

It is strange that we hear that kind of controversies for this these days. Help needed

Comment from Clayton
Time: April 29, 2018, 6:08 pm

The controversy of acrylic paints seems to surface every once in a while. I liked how the letter read, especially the almost poetic rhythm.

Comment from John
Time: June 22, 2018, 6:31 pm

Hi, I don’t know if you remember me but we used to talk before, I just found this post and I remember when you told me that you are starting to write it. Good memories!

Comment from Electroluminescent paint
Time: March 4, 2019, 3:32 am

Awesome response Mark! acrylic paint is vital for many of my projects. I like It bottom of my heart

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