The HTML Color Codes exhibition features a selection of internet based artwork that address the topic of digital color. The central question that the exhibition poses is whether or not artists working with the internet are in fact limited to a “ready-made” color palette, a premise that many artists working with film, photography, and mass produced, standardized paint sets have assumed. The rationale for this question stems from theories of perception that argue that color is a not ready-made object found in a paint set or machine, but rather it is an experience that results from a complex process of light interacting with the retina and human nervous system.

The exhibition begins and ends along a polemic. On one extreme, color is viewed exclusively in terms of its “ready-made” code, indicated by the programming language that the artist has used. In order to use color on the internet, one must adopt the standardized hexadecimal system of color values. This system involves designating a six-digit code combined of letters and numbers (such as 0000cc for a deep blue), which is then interpreted by HTML for online visualization. HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is a programming language conventionally used for coding and structuring the elements on a web page. Software applications such as Macromedia Dreamweaver or Adobe Flash automate coding so that designers or artists can manipulate the space and plug in graphics without memorizing code. The first four artists featured in the exhibition (Chris Ashley, Michael Demers, Brian Piana, and Owen Plotkin) demonstrate the some of the possibilities for hexadecimal values in color-based, visual, internet art.

While an online color always exists as a hexadecimal value, it is also a phenomenon that exceeds these codes, standards, and systems that attempt to calibrate and harness it. In this alternative view, color comes into being through its relationship with other colors, its environment, and human perception. For instance, a neutral grey color may appear bluish when placed on an orange background, but then it may appear orange when placed on a blue background. The middle section of the exhibition includes artists (dlsan, Michael Atavar, Jacob Broms Engblom, and Elna Frederick) whose work addresses this subjective dimension of color while also maintaining reference to the digital codes intrinsic to HTML color.

The last four pieces in HTML Color Codes move further in the direction of subjective color. This includes the works by Andrew Venell, Noah Venezia, Morgan Rush Jones, and Rafaël Rozendaal, each of whom challenge the viewer’s sensory response to varying degrees. Rozendaal’s RGB, for instance, the piece that concludes the exhibition, seems to demand the most of a viewer’s attentive capacities. With its bright R-G-B patterns flickering at a speed that is almost too fast to register, the colors begin to exceed human recognition. From Chris Ashley’s Look See to Rozendaal’s RGB, the exhibition does not portent to cover the full range of possibilities for color in internet art. However, these twelve works begins to broach this new field of color studies within the genre of internet art.