Attracted to Cubism, Reinhardt shattered the conventions of the movement by means of its very own forms. Absolving the rectilinear form from its capacity to create an image in perspectival depth, as demonstrated by artists such as Picasso and Braque, Reinhardt rendered it a neutral optical device devoid of image or subject. In this respect, Abstract Painting, Blue formally advances upon the precedent set by Kazimir Malevich, whose revolutionary canvases share the monochromatic rectilinear configuration of Reinhardt’s compositions. Like Malevich, whose paintings called for the reduction of painting to its very essence, Reinhardt’s composition implies both finality and the creation of a blank slate to open an entirely new potentiality.
The present work articulates the color blue in three discrete tones and forms: two symmetrical and parallel deep navy vertical rectangles within the frame of a luminous cobalt background. These chromatic variations are not yet as faint as they would become in Reinhardt’s later black paintings, while also marking a departure from Reinhardt’s earlier compositions of interspersed bricks of clearly disparate hues—Abstract Painting, Blue lies somewhere in between as a formative, transitional painting that displays Reinhardt’s maturing practice. Abstract Painting, Blue affirms Reinhardt’s place in the pantheon of the great masters of color such as Josef Albers and Mark Rothko, drawing a complex dualism and optical complexity from the interplay of slightly varied monochromatic hues.
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