Painting: Of a Different Stripe

When a 19th century artist set out to depict the Stations of the Cross, he could fall back on a ready-made iconography. The fifth painting, he knew, must represent Simon helping Christ shoulder the cross. Not so for an abstract painter, who must face the problem of portraying the progression toward Calvary without the props of episodic, cartoon-strip clarity, and at the same time strive to render its essential agony. Barnett Newman, 61, the most abstract of the U.S. abstract expressionists, made the problem even harder: he resolved to limit himself to his own astringent style, depict Christ's passage...

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