Considered one of the first Color Field painters and one of the forerunners of Lyrical Abstraction, expressionist painter Adolph Gottlieb privileges spatial configuration and compositional harmony in his paintings, to such an extent even that his work often seems conceived according to some sort of mathematical proportion. Gottlieb worked in series, his last of which, Burst, began in 1957, is his most pared down. Discs and winding masses remain his only imagery after years of pictographic painting inspired by the symbolism of American Indian art, a political decision that served as a corrective to his contemporaries whose genealogy can be almost exclusively traced to Europe. The rudimentary shapes arranged in the paintings from the Burst series exemplify Gottlieb's supreme skill as a colorist – the pigments are rich and their contrasts are almost academic in their perfection.
White Line #2, executed in 1968, includes Gottlieb's characteristic disc imagery in a typically mid-century palette of dark green, pumpkin orange, cobalt blue, and crimson red. Against a slightly mottled grey background, these saturated shapes confirm Gottlieb's own assertion that "tonal structure is the important thing in painting a picture. Color is only an extension of value. If values are right, colors will be right and I can decide upon any color scheme I wish. If a close range of values is chose, then color helps give variation of visual effect," (Adolph Gottlieb, Limited Edition, December, 1945).
The six-pronged sunburst in the canvas's bottom corner is painted with a childish, almost primitive angularity, though its form is iconic, almost-familiar, Calderesque. Small and singular, the shapes that constellate around the sunburst – black, yellow, periwinkle – are oriented so as to imply orbital movement. As Harold Rosenberg wrote in 1971, "Gottlieb's images are insignia of remoteness, of a continent or cosmos of the mind as distant as possible from the sign systems or twentieth-century New York. His emblems reach out to the magical idioms of medicine men, alchemists, astrologers. They are affiliated with hieroglyph and secret formula... But the sense of distant realist restrain his carefully placed circles, discs, rectangles and bars of color from translating themselves into the here-and-now of design for its own sake" (Harold Rosenberg, Gottlieb, New York, 1971, p. 7).
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