In the first scholarly publication devoted to the late work of Barnett Newman (1905–1970), a curator and a conservator provide a rare glimpse into his somewhat mysterious studio practice, giving insight into his full body of work and an eye-opening analysis of three unfinished paintings. Best known for his zip paintings—in which vertical lines traverse large planes of color—Newman has come to define the spiritual aspirations and material innovations of American painting in the mid-20th century. His work was a departure from his contemporaries’ gestural abstraction and seems to have anticipated the Color Field paintings of the next generation. During the last five years of his life Newman worked primarily in acrylic rather than oil, used increasingly vibrant colors, and experimented with shaped canvases.
About the Authors
Bradford A. Epley is chief conservator at the Menil Collection. A specialist in modern painting, he has published on Victor Brauner, Paul Klee, and others; his most recent essay, “Indivisibility Undone,” (2014) discussed Ad Reinhardt’s black paintings.
Michelle White is curator at the Menil Collection, Houston. She recently curated Lee Bontecou: Drawn Worlds (2014) and co-curated Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective (2011) and was a principal contributor to both catalogues.
Sarah K. Rich is an associate professor of art history at Pennsylvania State University, University Park. Her book Past Flat: Other Sides to American Abstraction in the Cold War is forthcoming.