Barnett Newman: Untitled

Excerpt

 I am offering you a description of the sensations generated by the visual texture of the work, a transcription to make sense of this piece though our mutual corporality.  However far apart we may actually be, observe how much of your body schema fits into the image I impart to—and on—you.

Reach out your left hand, palm facing up. Draw your fingers together and stiffen them to become a blank sheet of paper. Then flatten my words with that paper so they all play with the same surface. A brush takes cues from your parallel fingers. A moist stroke sweeps downward. Ink accumulates on taut fingers as cool bristles fray and tickle your palm. Now, separate your ring and pinky finger to open a chasm. A burst of ink spits out from your ring finger, and around it a V-shaped crevasse of blankness appears on the page. I mean your hand. Study the negative space between your tight fingers. But in the crevasse feel a looseness that contrasts with any constriction that has crept from the flattened space of your hand into your breath. Now relax and let your gaze wander around your palm. I mean the page.

This essay was written for Material Meanings: Selections from the Constance R. Caplan Collection, published by the Art Institute of Chicago in February 2020, distributed by Yale University Press.

Thank you Matthew Witkovsky and Amy Peltz.