The less an artist thinks in non-artistic terms and the less he exploits the easy, common skills, the more of an artist he is. . . . The less an artist obtrudes himself in his painting, the purer and clearer his aims. . . . Less is more.
--Ad Reinhardt, 1953
Although Ad Reinhardt is often grouped with the New Yorkbased Abstract Expressionist painters, his work is not concerned with gestural expression but rather with the optical and emotional sensations produced by the application of pure color onto a two-dimensional surface. Like Barnett Newman (whose painting The Third can be seen in this gallery), he aspired to rid his art of all narrative or symbolic content; painting could refer only to itself and not to anything outside its flat, colored surface. His reductivism led him to work in monochrome. From 1954 until his death in 1967 he painted only black-on-black canvases, including this one. With its barely perceptible vertical and horizontal bands of shades of black on a black ground, this canvas embodies Reinhardt's belief that "there is something wrong, irresponsible, and mindless about color, something impossible to control. Control and rationality are part of any morality."