Robert Motherwell, ‘In Black and White No. 2’, 1975, Dedalus Foundation

Though monumental in size and in imagery, this painting is one of a number of large pictures on canvas that Motherwell did during the mid-1970s that were based on the gestural imagery of small paintings on paper. In these large pictures Motherwell sought purposely unbalanced kinds of spatial construction, as is evident in the majestic, arcing black forms here. While they clearly evoke an abstracted mountain landscape, they also have a curiously awkward figural overtone, as if the painting were meant to evoke a state of being that is somewhere between the supposedly distinct categories of figure and landscape.

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Image rights: © Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA. New York, NY

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously

About Robert Motherwell

Alongside Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell is considered one of the great American Abstract Expressionist painters. His esteemed intellect not only undergirded his gorgeous, expressive paintings—frequently featuring bold black shapes against fields of color—but also made Motherwell one of the leading writers, theorists, and advocates of the New York School. He forged close friendships with the European Surrealists and other intellectuals over his interests in poetry and philosophy, and as such served as a vital link between the pre-war avant-garde in Europe and its post-war counterpart in New York, establishing automatism and psychoanalysis as central concerns of American abstraction. "It's not that the creative act and the critical act are simultaneous," Motherwell said. "It's more like you blurt something out and then analyze it.

American, 1915-1991, Aberdeen, Washington, based in New York and Greenwich, Connecticut