Barnett Newman's monumental painting is made up of just two colors, yellow and orange. In his work Newman sought to eliminate any reference to objects, figures, and symbols. He found himself left with only one remaining subject: pure empty space.
Since no one can actually see the space that exists between two people or two objects, Newman chose to interpret space as color. To make his idea of space more apparent, he created huge paintings that envelop you when you stand in front of them.
In this painting, a large field of orange stretches from the far right almost to the left edge of the canvas, representing Newman's expansive idea of space. He included two vertical lines--which he called "zips"--that interrupt this orange expanse, almost appearing to float over it rather than divide it. Now look at the far left side of the painting where Newman's orange space breaks apart. Do you think this is where this space begins or ends?
Newman's pared-down compositions and his use of bold, flat color greatly influenced the Minimal artist of the 1960s and 1970s and led the way to one of the ultimate expressions of modernist art--monochromatic painting.
Barnett Newman explains his use of color
"It is interesting to me to notice how difficult it is for people to take the intense heat and blaze of my color. If my paintings were empty they could take them with ease. I have always worked with color without regard for existing rules concerning intensity, value, or non-value. Also, I have never manipulated colors--I have tried to create color."