Los Angeles

Ad Reinhardt

Dwan Gallery

The prime value of these seven almost identical pictures lies in their ability to appear important, while avoiding every obvious method of visual seduction. The viewer is allowed no easy cue to enjoyment or understanding, rather he is asked to make a decision to take the trouble to contemplate the paintings in hope of finding some esthetic projection.

At a glance these paintings appear to be large solid black squares containing no image, surface interest or color. But, upon longer inspection, this is seen to be pure illusion arrived at by the extremely facile manipulation of dark, subtly colored greys, and a matte surface that is totally light-absorbant. Actually, each of these canvases is composed of a vertical and horizontal trisection that produces, when it becomes visible, a dominant cruciform shape composed of the central trisected bands.

In light of the absolute neutrality that Reinhardt has demanded in his writings, one would expect to use these paintings as focal points for non-directed contemplation, but in those terms the pictures fail. The cross image is fraught with associations engendered by the extreme concentration required to see it, as is the total technique which requires the viewer to study the color differentials and to become disturbed by the occasionally visible brush strokes. These factors, though, seem to mitigate, not the paintings, but the artist’s dogmatic professions concerning the criteria for art.

The fact that attention is demanded so quietly, and that the illusion of blankness is only illusion gives the pictures importance. Furthermore, that they are able to raise a number of visual premises or explanations and to deny each of them without denying themselves, is a fact that places them in the forefront of formal abstract painting.

Don Factor