Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ad Reinhardt, "Abstract Painting"

Right now, in the MOMA, there is a painting by Ad Reinhardt from 1963 called “Abstract Painting.” To the people shuffling through the rooms on a January Sunday, it is a black square. They turn their heads to glance at it briefly as they walk by, probably thinking of the red and black Pollack in the next room, or thinking nothing.

They have to look closer. They have to stop shuffling. They have to stop talking.

They have to stare.

They have to take off their glasses, even. They have to stop thinking about their stomachs and the restaurants serving discounted buffalo wings in Times Square. They have to be quiet.

Be quiet. Be quiet. Be quiet. Be QUIET!

This painting is not so hard to get, really. I point it out to a heavy-set woman in red glasses and a blue striped shirt. She’s Midwestern. She’s here for the day. She’s here to see Pollack.

“Do you see it?” I ask.

She waits. “Oh, yes.”

“Yes, you see,” I point with my finger. She follows my finger with her eyes. “There, and there,” I say, shifting my weight, changing my gaze from one corner of the painting to another. “This one is especially purple.”

“Thank you,” she says.

I smile. She walks away.

I sit down on the black, rectangular bench, and then he comes and sits down next to me. Silently, he studies my face. I wonder, can he see them? Can he see the purple squares?

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