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Reinhardt: The Purist Blacklash

AD REINHARDT HAS CHAMPIONED abstract art for the past three decades, and for the last half of that period, he has stood for purism in painting. His uncompromising position negates every other esthetic attitude. Relativism is rejected outright. He allows that he may be wrong but insists that if he is not, then he is absolutely right.

Reinhardt’s dicta are always witty and provocative, and more often than not, profound. But it is the brilliance of his painting that has forced his contemporaries to take heed of his writings and, understandably, to rebut.1 The controversy has been of value, for the vitality of New York art stems in part from perpetual disputes which sharpen issues. At times, however, Reinhardt’s artistic enemies have shifted their assault from his ideas to his work. This is natural, for his “extremist” ideas are embodied in them. But it is also deplorable, because the rancor

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