new-york

Robert Motherwell

Knoedler & Company

That Robert Motherwell is a master of the sure touch, of the precisely right configuration, has been confirmed once again by his new works. Motherwell continues to dare to use black more emphatically than any other painter, in fact as a kind of visual blackmail. Not mere islands but whole continents of shapes are abandoned to this freebooter, and the viewer is coerced into paying tribute. As the achromatic pigment we hate to love, black offers zero stimulus to the retina, achieving perceptibility only through contact with adjoining colors; in effect held for ransom, these colors appear tantalizingly richer. Ocher, for instance, a favored pigment in the new work as before, is a leeched hue until annexed by black, when it turns into an affirmation of every life-giving principle, a substance ground from equal parts sun and earth. (The synopsis of glaring light and deep shade performed by this

Sign-in to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for artforum.com? Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.