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PRINT September 1983

WHO’S AFRAID OF RED, YELLOW, AND BLUE?

A discourse that would be neither of the order of reduction nor of the order of promise.

—Michel Foucault

IN 1966 BARNETT NEWMAN stretched a large rectangular canvas, the height of a man, and covered it almost entirely with a brilliant red, bracketing this with a narrow yellow strip on the right-hand side and a slightly broader blue strip on the left. In 1969, he commented on it as follows:

I began this, my first painting in the series “Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue,” as a “first” painting, unpremeditated. I did have the desire that the painting be asymmetrical and that it create a space different from any I had ever done, sort of—off balance. It was only after I had built up the main body of red that the problem of color became crucial, when the only colors that would work were yellow and blue.

It was at this moment that I realized that I was now confronting the dogma that color must

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