- Morris Louis
- 款識：藝術家簽姓名縮寫並題款 Lambda 兩次（背面）
- Magna 壓克力彩畫布
- 102 3/4 x 142 英寸；261 x 360.7 公分
oil on canvas
261 by 360.7cm.
Executed in 1960.
Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2001
New York, Andre Emmerich Gallery, Variations on a Theme - 1960, February - March 1995
Münster, Westfälisches Landesmuseum; Grenoble, Musée de Grenoble, Morris Louis, May - December 1996, p. 84, illustrated in color and illustrated in color on the cover
Los Angeles, Manny Silverman Gallery, Morris Louis: Six Paintings from 1958-1962, January - February 2001, illustrated in color on the cover
New York, Paul Kasmin Gallery, Morris Louis, November 2001, p. 27, illustrated in color, p. 10 (text) and illustrated in color on the front and back cover
Michel Gautheir, "La diagonale du fond," Les Cahiers du Musée National d'Art Moderne, 60, Summer 1997, p. 59 (text)
"In the Galleries," The New Yorker, November 5, 2001, p. 18 (text)
Nearly symmetrical bands of color pour sensuously like ribbons from the upper margins of the vast eight-and-a-half by twelve-foot canvas; the cascading rivulets of brilliant hues surround a swelling void of raw canvas at the center of the composition. Freezing in time the aesthetic revelation of the work’s own creation, Lambda II displays a sense of controlled precision and inherent structural logic concomitant with a distinctly Cageian sense of chance. The mirrored tides of color are conversant with one another, poised in a kinetic equilibrium in which both poles press inward and outward, toward and away from the magnetically charged vacuum compressed between them. Sensational in its unprecedented clarity of color and spatial understanding, Louis’ streams of Magna paint form fluid currents across the picture’s vast surface; teeming with activity, the pigment breathes life into the very fibers of its support through a remarkably simplified economy of form. Upon its exhibition in 2001, Klaus Kertess praised Lambda II: “The canvas’ almost twelve feet of length stretches the fused structure into the viewer’s peripheral vision and heightens the lush, slow motion flicker of the pours… In every way, Lambda II achieves stunning elegance. Color and gestural drawing unite in clear units of radiant procedural clarity and supple visual seduction.” (Klaus Kertess in Exh. Cat., New York, Paul Kasmin Gallery, Morris Louis, 2001, p. 10)
Prior to the inception of the Unfurled paintings in the late summer/early fall of 1960, Louis had ordered canvas only 10 or 20 yards at one time; following the commercial success of the preceding Veil paintings, increased critical attention, and newfound representation by the Andre Emmerich gallery, Louis was able to purchase wider quantities of canvas than ever before, and new, more expensive formulas of paint that radically contributed to the development of this groundbreaking new series of monumental pictures. Taking advantage of his improved finances, Louis began to use a higher grade of cotton duct material, a canvas whose superior porousness allowed the paint to permeate the canvas quickly, producing the crisp contours so vital to most of the Unfurled series; armed with 16 gallons of Bocour’s new formula of Magna paint, whose increased viscosity (akin to maple syrup) was far more amenable to Louis’ intentions, the artist was able to finally realize the most mature, sharp articulation of his staining technique. Louis never mixed his paints, rather choosing to pour the pure hues directly from their container; the only blending of color arose from the occasional bleeding and overlapping at the edges of his pours. Exhibiting incredible control, confidence, and painterly audacity, Louis’ new materials allowed him to tightly guide and regulate the flow of paint across vast lengths of canvas while making sure that neighboring rivulets of paint would meet along their trajectories only where he intended. Even where the Magna overlaps at the base of Lambda II, the hues do not blend—each pour remains an autonomous, clearly articulated and contoured field of color.
In April 1953, Louis—along with good friend and fellow Color Field painter Kenneth Noland, and renowned art critic Clement Greenberg—visited Helen Frankenthaler’s studio to view her masterpiece painting, Mountain and Sea. Struck particularly by Frankenthaler’s ability to confuse depth and flatness through staining very thin pigment on to unprimed canvas, Louis was deeply moved and inspired by the ethereal pools of transparent color that he saw there. It was also in this same month that Greenberg not only acquainted Louis with Franz Kline, but also introduced him to the paintings of Jackson Pollock. Witnessing the expansive scale and pure openness of these works catalyzed the direction for Louis’ new artistic expression, leading him to destroy most of the paintings he had produced that year. Louis then began a journey both artistically and practically that would define his own truth as an artist, painter, and independent visionary. Lambda II stands indisputably at the climax of Louis’ explorations in abstraction, uniting with great aplomb the gestural control of Kline’s vigorous angular brushwork, the expressionist action of Jackson Pollock’s drip and pour, and the sublime stained color fields of Frankenthaler.