- Adolph Gottlieb
- 108 x 90 英寸；274.3 x 229 公分
oil on canvas
274.3 by 228.6cm.;108 by 90in.
Pierre and São Schlumberger (acquired from the above in May 1968)
Paul-Albert Schlumberger (acquired from the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1996
Cambridge, Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Adolph Gottlieb, May - June 1966, cat. no. 3, not illustrated and illustrated in color (on the cover)
Marisa Volpi, Arte Dopo Il 1945 U.S.A., Rome, 1969, illustrated
A monumental paradigm of Gottlieb’s most accomplished and renowned series of Burst paintings, Adolph Gottlieb’s Red and Blue from 1962 is an astounding exercise in the transcendence of painting. With its graphic power and elemental force, Red and Blue fulfills its creator’s intent, entirely enveloping the viewer in its dramatic scale and vivacious impact. As our eye meets a single palpitating red oculus hovering atop a vivid and resplendent cobalt outburst of vigorous brush and drip, we are caught in the hypnotic lure that suspends these forms in perfect harmony. The iconic importance of the Bursts is parallel to Jackson Pollock’s “drips”, Barnett Newman’s “zips” and Mark Rothko’s floating bands of color. Gottlieb’s unique brand of mark-making, typified in the complex chromatic layers of Red and Blue, incorporated a sensibility of both color and gesture that was tantamount to his illustrious contemporaries.
Abandoning linear formats in favor of color fields, the Bursts are steeped in the dualities of sky and ground, heaven and earth, as Gottlieb juxtaposed two fundamental elements afloat in a monochromatic flattened space. Reductive in palette and composition, Red and Blue is the essence of Gottlieb’s achievement, with the tension of his forms defining the explosive effect of his “signs”; the black and red “sun” and glowing blue “burst” are independent of each other in the expansive light rose ground, yet we feel one cannot exist without the other. Gottlieb’s embrace of this visual contradiction is complemented by his gifts as a colorist; just as with the soaring chromatic expanses of Mark Rothko, Gottlieb used color as an expressive agent. He declared in 1962, “I want to express the utmost intensity of the color… At the same time, I would also like to bring out a certain immaterial character that it can have, so that it exists as a sensation and a feeling that will carry nuances not necessarily inherent in the color, which are brought about by juxtaposition.” (cited in Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Adolph Gottlieb, 1968, p. 21) The immediate intensity of the inky red and black orb is mirrored by the saturated blue explosion that embodies the title of Red and Blue, resulting in an enduring painting of pure optical brilliance. Prolonged observation allows us to unravel the subtle chromatic intricacies pulsing from the simplified composition of Gottlieb’s reduced forms. The expansive white ground reverberates with an exquisite tint of pink, appearing as though the red of the circle seeped slowly out by osmosis to the porous surface area surrounding it, balanced at the other pole by extended halos of faint blue that saturate the white around Gottlieb’s brushstrokes. Accentuating the gravitational force radiating off each form, pulling them together in an ineluctable tension, these radii of color formally illustrate the inherent relationship between the dyadic shapes. This elegant and ethereal chromatic effect moreover spawns a sophisticated, poetic meditation on the interaction between paint and canvas, akin to the pouring and soaking techniques of Gottlieb’s Color Field contemporaries such Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler, and Kenneth Noland.
Hanging together in dynamic suspension, the two primary forms of Red and Blue do not make contact and yet remain irrevocably bound together as if by magnetic planetary forces. Gottlieb’s trademark lexicon of suspended discs and bursts in space carry with them an association to a removed, primitive pictorial form of expression—his emblems reflect hieroglyphic symbols, and allude to the communication of earthly phenomena by the shamans, medicine men, and astrologers of civilizations past. As Harold Rosenberg noted of Gottlieb’s Bursts in 1971, “No matter how abstract and ‘reduced’ they become, they carry reverberations of a beyond-art realm, be it the world of the primitive-archaic or of the outer space of modern physics.” (Harold Rosenberg in Exh. Cat, London, Marlborough Fine Art (and travelling), Adolph Gottlieb: Paintings 1959-1971, 1971, p. 8) While adhering to the classic dyadic, controlled structure of Gottlieb’s Bursts, the surface of the present work nevertheless maintains a portentous volatility. Evading stasis, the force holding the sphere and explosion together in equilibrium actively buzzes; it seems as though, if the magnetic field were to be disrupted, then the forms would fall, succumbing to the rudimentary physical forces of gravity. Though informed by a symbolic pictorial allusion to the mythological and the surreal, the painting’s forms appear governed by earthly forces of suspension, and motion. Balancing the sky and the ground, the solar and the tidal, in the painting’s composition, Gottlieb formally mirrored the tension between abstraction and representation that permeated the landscape of painting in New York at mid-century.
Along with his friends and fellow artists Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, and Barnett Newman, Gottlieb matched the desire to focus on the contemplative component of painting, striving to produce works that engender emotive experiences for the viewer. Exemplified by Red and Blue, Gottlieb’s painting balanced this pure exploration of form and color with a gestural expressionism akin to Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. The blue blasted form at bottom is painted by Gottlieb in a choppy brushed manner in contrast to the smooth rounded nature of the red eye above it—the two forms together isolate field and gesture, placing in coherent balance and tension the two modes of abstraction characterized by Rothko and Newman’s color-field painting on the one hand, and Pollock and Kline’s expressionism on the other. However, uniting these forms on a single plane suggests that these modes are not antithetical, but bound in an absolutely interdependent duality of influence. As noted by Mary Davis MacNaughton, “Gottlieb’s art is not dramatic ‘gesture’ painting… Nor is his art austere ‘color field’ painting… Instead, Gottlieb’s mature art synthesizes contrasting esthetic modes—both free and controlled—to express both the emotional and rational sides of his inner experience. In sum, Gottlieb’s art was the conscious expression of his unconscious feelings.” (Mary Davis MacNaughton in Exh. Cat. Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art (and travelling), Adolph Gottlieb: A Retrospective, 1981, p. 49)