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 Ad (Adolf Frederick) Reinhardt  (1913 - 1967)

/ RINE-hahrt/
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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: minimal-monochrome expression

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Ad Code: 1
Ad Reinhardt
from Auction House Records.
Abstract Painting, Red
© 2001 Estate of Ad Reinhardt / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Buffalo, New York, Ad Reinhardt was an early exponent of Minimal Art and a prominent figure in the New York contemporary art scene. His commitment to painting was purely to the process of painting, and he is best remembered for his all-black, large-scale paintings of the 1960s.

Reinhardt has been described as the first important American painter who was an abstractionist from beginning to end. He was known for his humorous, actually hilarious, swipes at the art world such as his dismissal of Thomas Hart Benton as an 'inconsequential ear of corn' and Jackson Pollock as an 'obscure leaf on the tree of art', etc. Not surprisingly, Reinhardt was a controversial figure. Other examples of his making fun of his contemporary artists can be found in his own semi-facetious chronology of his life which lists "1938 - Listens to neighbor Stuart Davis' loud ragtime jazz records, looks at his loud colored shirts on clotheslines... 1939 - Disagrees with Matta about importance in art of artists rubbing against sweaty people in subway rush hours."

Before the early 1950s the career of Ad Reinhardt was a long process of emptying out elements from his art. His first nearly monochromatic paintings were blue or red; then beginning in 1954 he painted nothing but black paintings. Both his life and work lead up to these great pictures, his "ultimates," as he called them.

As a young man, Ad Reinhardt studied art history at Columbia University where he edited the humor magazine and wrestled. He also attended the National Academy of Design, the American Artists' School, and the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University.

In 1937, he joined the American Abstract Artists group and from 1936 to 1941 worked for the WPA on the Federal Art Project in the Easel Division, painting in realist style typical of the 1930s. However, at the same time, he did collages and Cubist paintings with hard-edge, flat planes of color.

In the 1940s, after serving in the U.S. Navy as a photographer from 1944 to 1945, Reinhardt created numerous cartoons satirical of the art world and became associated with Abstract Expressionism, adopting the method of painting all over the canvas in a uniform, monochromatic way. As he got older, his painting became darker and more austere and geometric forms were barely distinguishable from the background.

In addition to painting, Reinhardt was an art educator who conducted classes at Brooklyn College in 1947, the California School of Fine Arts in 1950, University of Wyoming in 1951, Yale University from 1952 to 1953, New York University in 1955, Syracuse University in 1951 and Hunter College in 1960.

Reinhardt maintained an ongoing interest in Asian Art. He was a member of the Asian Art Association and the Chinese Art Society and gave lectures on Asian Art.

He died in New York City on August 30, 1967 at the peak of his career.


Sources:
Matthew Baigell, "Dictionary of American Art"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Adolf Frederick (Ad) Reinhardt was born the son of immigrants, in Buffalo, New York on December 24, 1913. He studied art history at Columbia University, where he edited the humor magazine and wrestled. He attended the National Academy of Design, the American Artists' School and the Institute of Fine Arts of New York University. In 1937, he joined the American Abstract Artists group, beginning his career as an artist in typical 1930s fashion as an easel painter on the Federal Art Project. He also did collages and Cubist paintings with hard-edge, flat planes of color.

Reinhardt was the first important American painter who was an abstractionist from
beginning to end. Reinhardt was known for his humorous, actually hilarious, swipes at the art world. His own semifacetious chronology of his life lists "1938 - Listens to neighbor Stuart Davis' loud ragtime jazz records, looks at his loud colored shirts on clotheslines...1939 - Disagrees with Matta about importance in art of artists rubbing against sweaty people in subway rush hours."

Reinhardt dismissed Thomas Hart Benton as an inconsequential ear of corn, Jackson Pollock as an obscure leaf on the tree of art, etc. Not surprisingly, Reinhardt was a controversial figure. Before the early 1950s his career was a long process of emptying out elements from his art. The first nearly monochromatic paintings were blue or red, then beginning in 1954 he painted nothing but black paintings. Both his life and work lead up to these great pictures, his "ultimates," as he called them. He died at his peak in New York City on August 30, 1967.


Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources:
Mark Stevens in Newsweek, January 28, 1980
Peter Plagens in Newsweek, June 24, 1991
Nicholas Jenkins in Art News, October 1991
From the Internet, www.artnet.com and www.askART.com




Biography from Sotheby's New York:
I don’t understand, in a painting” remarked Ad Reinhardt, “the love of anything except the love of painting itself.” (the artist cited in "Artists’ Sessions at Studio 35 (1950)” Modern Artists in America, No. 1, Wittenborn-Schultz, New York, 1951, p. 15)  For Reinhardt, painting operated within a set of boundaries that rebuffed identifiable subject matter, sentiment and eventually the artist’s expressive hand. Only through acts of repudiation in both form and color could the limits of painting be explored and “pure” painting achieved.   Five years after the artist decisively committed his energies exclusively to abstract, monochromatic paintings, the artist created his seminal “black paintings” series, a sequence which occupied the final decade of his life.  In keeping with his preference for acts of elimination, the artist removed the oil binder from the paint, thereby realizing a chalky, non-reflective pigment in these paintings.  For Reinhardt, reflection served as a distraction to the viewer, permitting application of personable connotations and content to the painting that he felt should be excluded.   As Margit Rowell states, the observer “was never to lose his awareness that he was engaged in a process of seeing, not of looking through a window, living out an ‘action’ or losing himself.” (Margit Rowell, Ad Reinhardt and Color, New York, 1980, p. 22)

While outwardly straightforward, the work Untitled from the series offers a captivating encounter to the attentive viewer, who must wrestle to secure a focal point amidst a hazy matte black surface.  With adjustment and time, a subtle structure slowly manifests.  The medium’s influence is facilitated by Reinhardt’s deliberate and controlled application of paint.  Three dark horizontal bands occupy the top, center and bottom divisions of the narrow canvas interspersed with three hard-edged quadrants whose varying degrees of tonal movement and order engage, influence and even transform each other.  A unique give and take unfolds upon this autonomous canvas, demonstrating not only the possibility of color in nonfigurative form but also illuminating Reinhardt’s spirited philosophy.  By superimposing thin layer upon layer, Reinhardt removes the author’s gesticulation and the viewer is left contemplating the abiding, transcendent experience of the abstract form.

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Ad Reinhardt is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
Abstract Expressionism
Modernism



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