Ad Reinhardt, Abstract Painting, 1960-66
From the Guggenheim:
Ad Reinhardt’s writings on art read as a litany of negative aphorisms. Describing his signature black paintings, which he focused on exclusively from 1953 until his death in 1967, he wrote: “A free, unmanipulated, unmanipulatable, useless, unmarketable, irreducible, unphotographable, unreproducible, inexplicable icon.” These canvases—muted black squares containing barely discernable cruciform shapes—challenge the limits of visibility. Reinhardt’s strategy of denial echoed his conviction that Modernism itself was a “negative progression,” that abstraction evolved as a series of subtractions, and he was creating the last or “ultimate paintings.” Rather than forecasting the death of painting as a viable art form, however, Reinhardt was instead affirming painting’s potential to transcend the contradictory rhetoric that surrounded it in contemporary criticism and the increasing commercial influences of the market.