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PRINT September 1996

ROBERT RYMAN, “STANDARD,” 1967

ROBERT RYMAN’S FIRST SOLO exhibition, in 1967, immediately drove me into perplexity with its apparently willing carelessness. I was confronted with a series of 48-by-48-inch sheets of thin, cold-rolled steel, all nearly identically painted with a wide, white-paint-loaded brush that had left overlapping, horizontal tracks of loose and fugitive strokes, sometimes moving from edge to edge, sometimes just trailing off across the support. Having recently opened a gallery that had been instantly identified with the term “Minimalism,” I was inured to the tired quip “I guess the show’s not up yet.” Now, faced with what I took at first to be a mindless repetitiveness, I was asking myself the same demeaning question: “Where’s the art?”

The previous Ryman paintings I had seen were endowed with a visibly purposeful structure and a creamy, homogeneous surface more readily identified as white, as well

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