Art: Approaching Absolute Zero

Ad Reinhardt, gadfly and hater of bogus mysticism, reduced painting to the pure power of austerity

We are saturated in reproductions of works of art. Hence the more art books and magazines we thumb through, the less likely we are to see an original fresh, for the first time: reproduction precedes the work as the radar blip announces the incoming plane, removing its element of surprise. No well-known artist has ever been able to circumvent this; only obscure ones don't have the problem, and wish they did.

During the 1950s, the American Ad Reinhardt dissolved the problem by painting pictures so dark, so apparently monochrome, that they could not be mechanically reproduced -- images that come out...

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