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C O U R S E 
Postwar Abstract Painting
Corey D'Augustine, The Museum of Modern Art
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Barnett Newman's Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950)
Notes taken on July 29, 2018 by Edward Tanguay
title is Latin for heroic and sublime man
Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Barnett Newman (1905-1970)
wrote about what an author and theorist could do in the postwar era
what an artist should do with abstraction is to plumb the void
to try to get somewhere in terms of perception and experience, both that of the painter and the viewer that was not possible before
abstraction should be able to do something the figurative, mimetic painting, something about something, couldn't do
Newman's paintings are about the experience of the void
daring to paint in a way that had never been seen before
daring to incur experiences in paint which had never been experienced before
the formal mechanism through which these experiences are had
Vir Heroicus Sublimis
you eye doesn't know where to start, it just begins roaming and doesn't know where to stop
it has multiple centers of gravity
different zips which are dispersed throughout the painting
your eye wants to play ping-pong back and forth between them
certain ones grabbing your attention, others receding away from you
consider which zip demands you attention
one really screams for you
others are maybe the fourth or the fifth that your eye finally lands on and returns to the more prominent zips
the ground
a lot of oil paint, cadmium red, opaque and incredibly evenly painted
something that acrylic paint is engineered to do
if you think Barnett Newman is not a painter's painter, not a technician of paint, then try this at home with oil colors
to paint this evenly in oils without a roller, this was all done with a brush, is a feat of painting
zips, left to right
first zip
much glossier than the ground
the hue is related, but the value is lighter
there has been some white added to this paint
the lighter color flickers in and out of existence, but doesn't scream
masking tape and palette knife
but with fairly large skips
allows the zip to be weak
second zip
a very clean, light, cool white
it's quite opaque since it has actually been put in twice
first with a pallet knife, the second with a brush
second application missed some areas
by far the highest value color of any zip
leaps out into your field of vision first
third zip
a dark, deep, cool plum color
contrasting the flickering of the other zips, you have here an optical pulling-away
lowest value color on the canvas
color is the cooler than the field itself
thus appears to be optically behind the ground of the painting
fourth zip
another flickering, low-chroma, high-value versions of the cadmium red color
fifth zip
another white, but a warm, translucent one
probably a calcium containing white
in contrast, the bright white zip is probably a lead white
looking closely, you see it has been applied in two passes
both appear to have been done with a brush
the red behind the white co-mingles in your eye
a warm, tending-toward-yellow color
has a weaker character
figure-ground relationships
we have these zip competing for prominence in our field of vision
environmental viewing of painting
the installation space that a painting is hung in
when we are very close to the painting, almost enveloped in it
their are certain positions when you don't see any wall space anymore
your field of vision is completely dominated by the painting
something that can be experienced first-hand in the museum
you have a feeling of loss
it's the process of using paint to manipulate your experience, which transitions into the work of light artists such as Albert Irvin (1922-2015) and James Turrell (1943-)