, 1948. Museum of Modern Art
, New York. The first example of Newman using the so-called “zip” to define the spatial structure of his paintings
Throughout the 1940s he worked in a surrealist vein before developing his mature style. This is characterised by areas of color separated by thin vertical lines, or “zips” as Newman called them. In the first works featuring zips, the color fields are variegated, but later the colors are pure and flat. Newman himself thought that he reached his fully mature style with the Onement series (from 1948). The zips define the spatial structure of the painting, while simultaneously dividing and uniting the composition.
The zip remained a constant feature of Newman’s work throughout his life. In some paintings of the 1950s, such as The Wild, which is eight feet tall by one and a half inches wide (2.4 meters by 2 centimeters), the zip is all there is to the work. Newman also made a few sculptures which are essentially three-dimensional zips.
Although Newman’s paintings appear to be purely abstract, and many of them were originally untitled, the names he later gave them hinted at specific subjects being addressed, often with a Jewish theme. Two paintings from the early 1950s, for example, are calledAdam and Eve (see Adam and Eve), and there is also Uriel (1954) and Abraham (1949), a very dark painting, which as well as being the name of a biblical patriarch, was also the name of Newman’s father, who had died in 1947.
Cheryl Donegan b. 1962
Line (1996, 14:20 min, color, sound)
Writes Donegan: “… The video is the centerpiece of a large project comprised of paintings and video inspired by the Jean-Luc Godard film Le Mépris. This project does not seek to analyze or critique the Godard film, but to use it as a model, as an inspiration, as a ‘classical’ language through which other stories can be told… I myself ‘play’ the roles of both Camille (B. Bardot) and Paul (M. Piccoli). In the Godard film, the characters meet over the recreation of Homer’s Odyssey as a Hollywood-style film. In Line, my Homer, the representative of the noble, classical past or Father artist, is the American painter Barnett Newman. In the video, the characters struggle over how to recreate one of his classical ‘zips.’ This abstract expressionist gesture of presence, of affirmation is for them a mark of cancellation, of destruction. Are they wrong?”
“Newman” is also the name of a character in Seinfeld:He speaks often in a humorously sinister tone (mainly to Jerry). Jerry refers to Newman as “pure evil” on more than one occasion. The two generally greet each other this way, Jerry in a distrustful, baleful voice, Newman in a falsely jovial one:
- Jerry: “Hello, Newman.”
- Newman: “Hello, Jerry.”