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Ad Reinhardt, Abstract Painting

Ad Reinhardt, Abstract Painting

(soft piano music) – [Voiceover] What am I looking at? – [Voiceover] You’re
looking at an Ad Reinhardt called Abstract Painting. It dates to 1963–
– [Voiceover] It’s name is called Abstract Painting? – [Voiceover] Exactly. – [Voiceover] I see. Because you know sometimes
these paintings just look like they’re one color
because we’re looking at a computer screen. If I were to go the
museum, is it the MoMA? – [Voiceover] There’s
a version of this at– – [Voiceover] There’s a version
of, okay so what would I see if I were able to go
closer to this painting, or is it literally this navy blue color? – [Voiceover] So you walk up
to the painting in the museum and there is some distortion here. It would be more of a flat black when you first walked up to it. – [Voiceover] Oh, it’s
actually closer to black? – [Voiceover] It’s closer
to a kind of flat black. – [Voiceover] It has a
little bit of blue in it that’s why we’re getting– – [Voiceover] Right, exactly. When you first walked up to painting, you would actually see a perfect square of black and that’s it, no
differentiation whatsoever. You would likely, or most people, would then after a few moments walk on because that’s
– [Voiceover] Yes. – [Voiceover] what people do in museums. – [Voiceover] Before we
get into any context, and I don’t know the context on this, so this goes back to the
principle of a painting standing by itself versus the context making it more interesting perhaps. Just this by itself, yes,
it’s a big square of black. It is interesting that
it’s there at the museum, that someone chose to
give it that recognition. Based on what I do know, it seems like also this has been done before. We looked at the Malevich. His motivations may
have been very different but he had White on White. So with that said, this
painting doesn’t seem, just on it’s own, to do a lot. – [Voiceover] Right, and in
fact, this is a perfect example of a painting that really annoys people, that makes people feel like
they have been hoodwinked. That their time and
this precious wall space has been badly spent, but in
fact, Ad Reinhardt is doing something pretty sophisticated, I think. If you had decided not to walk off, if you had decided to
spend some time thinking about why in the world
somebody would put this perfect square of black
on the wall in the museum, you would actually start to
question what you were seeing. Because, as you stare at
it, you begin to wonder whether or not you’re seeing something, but, “Wait it’s not there.” – [Voiceover] But– – [Voiceover] And then, wait
hold on, because there is this process that takes place,
and it takes your eye a few minutes of really concerted looking to start to see what is there. – [Voiceover] Fair enough,
but I feel like that happens with a lot of things, that if
you really observe anything, not even something that
someone has told you is a work of art. I have this guitar sitting behind us. If I really start to stare at that guitar, I start to see new things. I feel like that’s
almost true of anything, especially a big chunk of color. – [Voiceover] Fair enough,
and I think you’re right. If we decide to pay attention to just about anything we can enrich it’s meaning, but here’s something in the world whose purpose is that. It’s purpose is not something
else, and it is the artist asking us to really pay
attention, and he does reward us. When you start to look at this closely, you start to see that there
are, in fact, nine squares here. This is a grid. The squares are
– [Voiceover] Yes. subtle and different colors. It’s just on the edge
of perception though. Even as you’re recognizing this,
you question whether or not what you’re seeing is really there. – [Voiceover] No, you’re right, I mean I can barely see it on the computer. That is interesting. This idea of creating things
on the edge of perception. – [Voiceover] Then take
this another level. Think about this as your
eye getting used to this. It’s not just your mind being
focused enough to perceive it, but your eye is actually adjusting. Your pupils are dilating to be
able to bring that light in. That very subtle difference in. This is a painting that is
working with the biology of our body, the biology
of sight, not just the perceptual qualities that are intellectual but the physical qualities of sight. – [Voiceover] I’ll push
back another dimension, because I’m starting to
really like this painting. This, I think, belongs
in a science museum. You know, in those science
museums, you have these things like, “How high of the
thing can you hear?” “What can you perceive?” That’s what this is doing. When you look at this painting, you see just a big wall of black. You spend a little time on it. Your pupils dilate and now all of a sudden you capture more light and you start to see
the shade differences. – [Voiceover] In terms of its
pure perceptual quality, yes, but it’s also part of
an ongoing discussion of what art should be now in
the mid-twentieth century. – [Voiceover] I’m not 100 percent there, but I’m starting to appreciate the why. (soft piano music)

7 thoughts on “Ad Reinhardt, Abstract Painting

  1. There is beauty & fascination in EVERYTHING ~ if only you are able to see it.
    Or should I say ~ if only you are able to perceive it. I am glad I am ;o)

  2. Sorry, but the conversation was meaningful till 4.09
    After that , on the argument that it belongs to the science museum, the "Art historian" guy had nothing meaningful to add.

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