Ad Reinhardt

I wanted to pick an abstract painter as one of the artists I researched because I don’t know much about abstract painting’s history. I didn’t ever remember hearing his name but after doing a Google search I quickly found I was already familiar with his black paintings.

Untitled paper collage, 1941


Untitled (Red and Gray), 1950

Abstract Painting

Red and Blue Composition


Ad Reinhardt was an American abstract painter and a part of the American Abstract Artists. He was also a member of the Abstract Expressionist movement and was an influential figure in conceptual, minimal art and monochrome painting. To get to some things that he deemed better left out of painting he also wrote and lectured. He is also famous for his “black paintings.” He described them in writing, “A free, unmanipulated, unmanipulatable, useless, unmarketable, irreducible, unphotographable, unreproducible, inexplicable icon.” What is interesting about these black paintings is that they are not just a sheet of black, rather, they contain barely visible cruciforms shapes and varying shades of dark. Reinhardt stated that Modernism is a “negative progression,” and that abstraction came to be as a series of subtractions- and with these paintings he was creating the last or “ultimate paintings.” However, Reinhardt was not referencing the death of painting as an art form, “instead [he was] affirming painting’s potential to transcend the contradictory rhetoric that surrounded it in contemporary criticism and the increasing commercial influences of the market” (Nancy Spector from the Guggenheim’s website).

I saw Black and White in the Art Institute and was impressed by the organized intricacy of the chaos. Even though at first glance it might just seem like a mess of only black and white, I think one can get a lot out of it if it is studied for a while- patience rewards the viewer. My thoughts were a little similar to what the curator of the MoMA had to say in this video. I think it is interesting that he never seems to title his paintings anything more than what they are right when you look at them- red and gray, red and blue composition, black and white, etc. Looking at Black and White and seeing its title gave a sense of simplicity, this painting stripped down to only two colors; it was sort of like seeing the guts of a painting.

Here are some more links to information and pictures:

The Guggenheim
The MoMA
Writing by Ad Reinhardt


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