“Black Paintings”

Haus der Kunst

In today’s museum world, where competition for exhibition space is escalating, emptying two large rooms, painting them black, and then posting a text instructing the viewer on how to perceive a black painting is an ambitious conceptual gesture—one that becomes even more commanding in view of the fact that the exhibition’s curator, Stephanie Rosenthal, limited her checklist for the show to just four American male heavyweights who made black paintings between 1945 and 1965. By making Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, and Ad Reinhardt the sole artists represented, the narrative of a purely New York phenomenon is promulgated, drawing a line of demarcation between these painters and the European modernists who tested the dark palette in the early twentieth century.

Yet, regardless of the decision not to construct a visual genealogy for black paintings made in New York, Rosenthal’s

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