Ad Reinhardt (b. 1913-1967) is often associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement of New York, but like Barnett Newman, his work often defies this categorisation, and is now considered a big influence on minimal art and monochrome painting.

He is perhaps best known for his so-called ‘black paintings’. At first, these works seem to be black monochromatic paintings. However, if one stays with the work long enough, their eyes will adjust to and reveal the variance in colour and formal elements (many of these take on the form of a crucifix or a grid). Earlier versions required just a few minutes of the viewer for their eyes to adjust, but my understanding is that as he advanced in his career he produced paintings that would require twenty or thirty minutes of viewing.

There is something incredibly Zen about this series of work. They are an opportunity to be present with something we think we know, and over an extended period of time (a meditation?) come to learn how different things really are beneath the surface. In the process, we become intimate with the work and revel in its secrets.


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  1. To really understand what Adrian means you’ll have to go to a museum and see for yourself. They are indeed very intriguing; the works ask you to slow down, and as such participate – rather than quickly glance.

    Also, the importance that these painting have had on the Minimal Art movement in the 1960’s cannot be understated. Reinhardt was often ahead of his time.

  2. Certainly something to be seen in person, but I can definitely appreciate there is something very Zen about taking the time to view these pieces. Great article, Adrian.

  3. Thanks, Carl! And yes, Maarten, I have only ever read about these works of his. I would imagine their impact to be much different in person, and I look forward to encountering them one day.

  4. Ad Reinhardt is the most important painter of Minimal Art Movement and Abstract Expressionism for the last century. And thank you for your words about him. Best regards. Lepolsk

  5. Contrary to popular belief, Abstract art isn’t actually art.
    It’s merely a metaphor of babbling endlessly, while saying nothing.

    But, by all means. Don’t let me ruin my fellow commentator’s pseudointellectual circle-jerks.



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