The Ad Reinhardt show at David Zwirner is one of the most sublime exhibitions I have ever seen. It is remarkable to see this many of the paintings together.
These are not easy paintings. One must spend time with them to receive the full benefit of their depth and beauty. What appears to be a uniform black canvas is of course a nine-squared very painterly and subtle representation of a spectrum of colors that are always changing depending on the time of day, the light, and your position in the room in relation to any one painting. It warrants multiple visits. The notion of this gradual unfolding of detail and richness is in welcome contrast to the bombardment of ever changing and multiple images that pervade our digital society today. This is the antithesis of a digital experience—no photograph can do full justice to the experience of being in the presence of these paintings.
Reinhardt’s work as an illustrator and cartoonist was previously unknown to me, so seeing all of those as part of the exhibition was really enlightening to an understanding of his overall process and way of organizing images and narrative. The depth of his personality and commitment to social issues comes through vividly and is remarkable but it is his very sharp and decisive humor that I keep going back to in my mind.
It was personally gratifying to see such a powerful show in a space of my own design and to see how the building was able to support the work both on a practical level, in terms of the very strict lighting and climate conditions, but also how the overall proportions and scale worked together to create a calming and receptive vessel for appreciating, and savoring, Reinhardt’s extraordinary vision.
ANNABELLE SELLDORF, FAIA, is a German born architect and founding principal of Selldorf Architects, a New York City-based architecture and interior design practice.