Art: A Look At a Beautiful Impasse

Morris Louis' paintings embody the discourse of pure hue

It is advisable when visiting the Morris Louis retrospective now on view at New York City's Museum of Modern Art to recall the claims made for this painter ten or 15 years ago. In such work, the art historian Michael Fried once wrote, "what is nakedly and explicitly at stake . . . is nothing less than the continued existence of painting as a high art." It contained "unimagined possibilities for the future of painting." One chews on this, moving from one sweetly august canvas to the next, enjoying the floods and diaphanous veils of color, the sheaves of burning stripes,...

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