Primal Force

ATE, gift of ANNALEE NEWMAN, 1972, DACS LONDON AND ARS, NEW YORK 2002

The monumental canvas invites you to stare until your soul merges with its utter blueness. Barnett Newman painted Ulysses in 1952, after the failure of his first two solo shows. But instead of making his art more accessible — his paintings had been criticized as "nearly blank" — he traveled farther into abstraction. Ulysses and its companions, the inkier Day Before One (1951) and the sable Prometheus Bound (1952), strike the viewer with the primeval and inexplicable force of Stonehenge monoliths. These works need to be seen to be believed. "There is no substitute for the personal experience of these paintings,"...

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