Black Paintings. Robert Rauschenberg
In the late 1940s, several prominent artists of the New York School–among them Robert Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and Frank Stella–were studying the color black intently. That work, interrelated but not collaborative, resulted in an astonishing number of almost monochromatic black paintings, which today are considered treasures of many major collections, including the Whitney Museum of American Art’s. For the first time, Black Paintings gathers all of the best of the title artist’s black works together: textured black, striped black, blue-black, brown-black, black-black. In thorough illustration and thoughtful analysis, it sheds light on the differences between these post-war works as well as their commonalities. For Frank Stella and Robert Rauschenberg, black was a way to disappear into something new, a way to a new artistic vocabulary. For Mark Rothko, it stood for emptiness and nothingness; it asked the spectator to reflect back on it. For Ad Reinhardt, it offered denial and invisibility. Each artist’s black portfolio reflects a breakthrough or transition in his own work, and, combined, they represent a larger moment of transition. The Black Paintings marked both a beginning and an end: the end of painting as illusion, as a window onto the world, and the beginning of painting as the mode for the creation of self-sufficient perceptual objects–a change that granted new roles to artist and viewer both.
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