Beholding Barnett Newman's Adam, Part 1: Scale and Standing

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During his second one-man show at Betty Parsons Gallery in New York in April 1951, abstract expressionist painter Barnett Newman (1905–1970) exhibited a large, untitled oil painting, now known as Adam (Tate T01091; fig.1). At two and a half metres high by two metres wide, the canvas then comprised just three elements: a large expanse of deep, reddish brown and two bright red bands running from the top to the bottom of the canvas. The visual reach of the amplified field was constrained laterally on both sides: on the left, by the broad plank of cadmium red that firmly declared the painting’s framing edge; and less emphatically on the right by a much narrower, two-centimetre strip of the same colour running parallel to the right edge, at a distance of fifteen centimetres.

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