Ad Reinhardt, ‘Abstract Painting’, 1955, Phillips

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From the Catalogue:
At first a seemingly black monochrome canvas, Reinhardt’s Abstract Painting from 1955 is a stunning exploration of the subtle interplays of colour and light. Upon close inspection, the viewer notices slight tonal variations within the linear grid of the painting, a result of Reinhardt’s ability to design different matte black pigments by mixing in warm and cool reds, greens and blues. Such subtleties are also realised in the reflection of light against the canvas, inviting different interpretations of the work from various vantage points. As Reinhardt once summarized of the different blacks in his monochrome abstracts, ‘There is a black which is old and a black which is fresh. Lustrous black and dull black, black in sunlight and black in shadow.’ (Ad Reinhardt quoted in “Black as Symbol and Concept”, Barbara Rose, Art-as-Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt, New York, 1953, p. 86)

Each of these unique blacks is present in Abstract Painting. The present lot belongs to Reinhardt’s celebrated series of black paintings, of which he also referred to as his ‘ultimate paintings’. In intimate scale, Abstract Painting offers a unique look into this series which culminated his practice. Painted just over 10 years before the artist’s sudden death, this work, which has been in a prestigious New York collection for over three decades, is a paradigm for the artist’s modern experimentations in abstract painting.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed, titled and dated 'Ad Reinhardt "ABSTRACT PAiNTing, 1955"' on the reverse of the backing board

John Yau, A Life with Artists: Hannelore and Rudolph Schulhof, New York, 2016, p. 170 (illustrated)

Malborough-Gerson Gallery, New York
Private Collection, Los Angeles
Ronald Greenberg Gallery, St. Louis
Dr. and Mrs. Harold J. Joseph
Christie’s, New York, 5 May 1982, lot 18
Private Collection, New York

About Ad Reinhardt

Influenced by Stuart Davis’s Cubist-inspired paintings, Ad Reinhardt’s early work features canvases covered in colorful and asymmetrical geometric forms, such as Number 43 (Abstract Painting, Yellow) (1947). Reinhardt’s collages are similarly complex, with layers of printed paper cut and pasted in irregular rectilinear forms. His own influence on Minimalism is foreshadowed by his later monochromatic paintings, most notably his series of black abstracts that abandoned gesture in favor of smooth brush strokes and subtle, at times barely noticeable, grids.

American, 1913-1967, Buffalo, New York, based in New York, New York

Group Shows

Museum of Modern Art, 
New York, NY, United States,
The Responsive Eye