Pungent Distances

Morris Louis American

Not on view

Spare in design, but arresting in visual effect, Pungent Distances is part of a substantial group of paintings of stripes that Louis produced in the early 1960s. His pigment thinned with turpentine and his canvas stapled to a wall, the artist worked with controlled chance to create the impression that gravity produced the abstract design—even as the stripes’ upward trajectory seems to work against it. Louis’s thin paint merges with his unprimed canvas, becoming integral to its flat surface. He had adopted the technique of staining the canvas from Helen Frankenthaler, while the stripe motif recalls the vertical "zips" of Barnett Newman. The prominent critic Clement Greenberg applied the term "post-painterly abstraction" to works like this, by artists who sought to tame the highly pitched emotion of Abstract Expressionism of the previous decade.

Pungent Distances, Morris Louis (American, Baltimore, Maryland 1912–1962 Washington, D.C.), Magna on canvas

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