Artwork

Robert Ryman
1969

In the late 1950s, a large number of young artists in the USA started to protest against the conventionality that had overtaken post-war painting. The artists increasingly insisted that a picture is a material object in the everyday world and has to be perceived as such. Robert Ryman’s decades of intensive examination of questions of figurativeness made him an exposed figure in the discussion about the redefinition of painting. The painting Untitled, 1969, is part of a series started after 1967 for which the artist used the thinnest possible grounds like canvas, card or fiberglass that would stick as close to the wall as possible, so that the picture could become part of the wall and of the space. The white paint applied to Untitled has corresponding gaps, insert from the corners, on the upper and lower edges. These are caused by the sticky tape that he used to hold the sheet of fiberglass on the wall while he was doing the painting. As nothing is left to chance in Ryman’s paintings, these ‘empty spaces’ mean something as well: they show how the paint is structured on the support, and they also stress the picture’s relationship to its support medium and to the surrounding wall.

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