Ad Reinhardt’s painting, Abstract Painting 1960-65, is at first glance’ a black square canvas.
The subject matter seems to be just what it is, a black painting. There are no people. No event or action is taken except for the fact that Reinhardt has made the painting. The title only provides us with the information that we are looking at an abstract painting. The only other information that the artist gives you is the time period, in which it was conceived, 1960 to 1965. In the least amount of words possible, we could describe the painting as an abstract color field. It is possible that a narrative is expressed through the piece, although, we can not be certain what it is.
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There is nothing narrated through conventional means in any way. The composition of the painting takes place with the square of the canvas. The square is approximately 5′ x 5′. A black frame surrounding the painting protrudes approximately 4″ off the canvas. There is a 1″ inlay between the canvas and frame.
From this square, Reinhardt breaks the composition into six equal squares in three even rows. Texture is no where to be found in the painting. No visual indication of the artist’s brush stroke is present. No varnished glare is given off by the piece. The entire work, including the frame, is completely matte. The squares take up the entire canvas in a checkerboard type arrangement. Each square is a slightly different shade of blue-black. It almost becomes impossible to see the difference between each square.
The middle squares in the top and bottom rows shift more towards blue than the rest of the squares. The division of these middle squares become more obvious than the others. When the painting is looked at from a distance, it is almost impossible to see any of the squares at all. When looking from a far, all a viewer can see is a blackish blue canvas. As you stare longer into the painting, a halo begins to form around the corners of the canvas, creating a circle inside the square.
Once you look away from the canvas, the circle is gone. With this observation in mind, we could say that the painting most definitely relies on the viewer. A viewer is required to look at the piece for its full affect. We could say that the squares in the painting are self-contained.
On the other hand, the squares create a visual effect that isn’t even on the canvas. They create an experience and shape thats completely opposite of the paintings overall form and composition. Reinhartd’s painting is abstract, expressive and analytical. We can recognize the abstractness as the idea of a black on black square.
The expressive quality becomes evident when we realize that Reinhartd’s hand can not be seen. The amount of self-containment and painstaking labor needed to make such a flat painting is immense. This labor can be recognized as Reinhartd’s expressive nature through paint. As we dig deeper, the subject matter lends itself to analyticity. The plane on which we view Ad Reinhardt’s painting is much higher than first perceived. To understand the subject, the viewer most also understand Reinhardt’s philosophy of painting. Reinhardt’s painting goes further than the visual “black square”. Within this black square is the end of all painting and the start of a new.
Ad Reinhardt’s Abstract Painting 1960-65 (history and context)Ad Reinhardt’s Abstract Painting 1960-65, was created over a span of five years. This painting, as well as many of Reinhardt’s paintings is considered to be the end of painting. The nothingness of painting. In 1959 painters such as Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Joseph Albers and Willem de Kooning were showing exhibiting regularly and thought to be in their prime. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City was showing a Miro retrospective.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum had just opened in New York, offering a new collection a chance for artists to show work. As the 60’s came, so did a new president and a war. John F. Kennedy was to be the new president. A young, energetic, All-American male from Harvard. He gave a new