Taken from The New York Times, By Ken Johnson
For Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967), Puritanism ultimately prevailed over hedonism. With calculated hyperbole, he declared that the history of painting ended with his black paintings, in which obdurate monochromism subdued color to near invisibility. But during the 1950’s, Reinhardt gave himself over to the pleasures of color and produced some of the decade’s most optically luxuriant paintings. This overcrowded exhibition presents 59 works leading up to that period, easel-size pictures from 1941 to 1952.
You see Reinhardt, who never wavered in his commitment to abstraction, sorting out three tendencies: a bouncy, Stuart Davis-like Cubism; busy, calligraphic drawing, and Mondrianesque grids of pure color. There are appealing works mixing wiry, allover linearism and juicy color, but the best pictures consist only of square or rectangular patches flickering on flat, candy-colored fields — what Reinhardt, who liked to make fun of art historians by labeling his own work, called ”archaic color-brick-brushwork-Impressionism.”
The most compelling are almost ridiculously pretty, like an ice-cream-colored vertical from 1952 in which mint-green, sky-blue and ochre-brick shapes float across a deep raspberry pink.
To move from these to the works on the other end of the gallery, a selection of Robert Motherwell’s empty but unfailingly elegant black-and-white gestural drawings done from 1951 to 1986, is to experience sensory deprivation.