Barnett Newman (1905-1970) was one of the most profound and influential
painters of the 20th century. A master of expansive spatial effects and
richly evocative color, he pioneered an art that was both uncompromisingly
abstract and powerfully emotive. This retrospective exhibition will assemble
more than 100 works not seen together in over 30 years.
It will trace the
dramatic shifts in Newman's practice from his Surrealist- inspired drawings of
the 1940s, through his development of the trademark vertical stripe he
would dub the zip, and finally to the groundbreaking shaped canvases he
produced in his last years.
Born in 1905 to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Newman was a lifelong
New Yorker who studied at the Art Students League and the City College
of New York. A close friend of the artists Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko,
Clyfford Still, and Jackson Pollock, Newman was at the center of the New
York art scene just as Abstract Expressionism was ascending to
prominence in the early 1950s. In spite of the important role he played
during the formative years of the New York School, Newman achieved
recognition for his own work only late in his career, after decades of
struggle. In the 1960s he served as an unofficial father figure to the
emerging generation of minimalist and conceptual artists.
Despite the apparent simplicity of his signature motif, the zip, Newman's
art is a richly complicated one. The exhibition will explore the full breadth of
his achievements including such masterpieces as his breakthrough painting
Onement I of 1948, the series Stations of the Cross (1958-1966) and the
monumental sculpture Broken Obelisk (1967). The National Gallery of Art,
the Menil Collection, and the Museum of Modern Art, each numbering
among the few museums where Newman's work is concentrated, have promised key loans.
This exhibition will give the public an opportunity to encounter in depth the
work of one of the greatest artists of our time, and will launch the next era
of Newman scholarship, said Ann Temkin, the Museum's Muriel and Philip
Berman Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. At the turn of the
millennium, no member of his generation remains more significant than
Barnett Newman, and we are proud to be presenting a comprehensive view
of this remarkable artist's life's work.
Oil on canvas
60 x 38 inches
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. David Pincus
Photography by Bruce White, courtesy of the Barnett Newman Foundation