In my mind’s eye I see Ad eternally creating his “last painting,” workmanlike, in a methodical dance around a supine canvas, balancing the quickly drying paint in each corner, seeking an even, flat surface with no trace of his sure hand or the small brush he was brave enough to rely on. Courageous, egoless, “at one,” and “in the zone.” Not Pollock’s liberating dance of improvisation, but action slow, deliberate, controlled, efficient, and rational, with nothing left to chance, in thrall, nevertheless. Round and round he goes, striving for the precarious absolute moment doggedly; infuriatingly dogmatic, he keeps on the straight and narrow, all the while enveloped in the gyre of art’s history, seeking his version of “the dark of absolute freedom,” his “products of zero,” ever sought, ritually renewed, eternally returned to. The quiet, subtle, insistent whisper of his black paintings invites us not to look at but to see in, to be “oned” in/with his silent sanctuary. He challenges us to take the time to be truly contemplative. His paintings are ever more of a refuge from the screaming art that surrounds us.
I once visited Dale McConathy,1 who had one of Ad’s small black paintings on his wall covered with the neatly crafted cardboard box Ad had provided for its transport. He would ceremoniously remove this protection to allow time spent in contemplation. That was the first moment I was “alone” with a black painting. I sat there until I was politely reminded that dinner was the purpose of the invitation. At the table I began my conversation with: “Let’s talk about guilt.” Perhaps I might have asked: “Let’s listen for quiet.”
1. (Betty Parsons Gallery, Harpers Bazaar Literary editor, ArtPark’s founding Executive Director), see “Keeping Time: some notes on Reinhardt, Smithson, and Simonds,” Artscanada 32 nos. 198 – 199 (June 1975)
CHARLES SIMONDS is an artist based in New York. His most recent exhibition was the swan song exhibition for the Knoedler Gallery and the catalogue essay for that exhibition was written by the late Arthur Danto.