At the time of Ad Reinhardt’s early death in 1967 he was best known for his seminal black paintings, which had become recognized as forerunners of new artistic developments of the moment, such as Minimalism and Conceptualism. It is only now that the many and varied aspects of his career and life are becoming the focus of intense scrutiny and debate.
To examine this developing interest in Reinhardt’s many facets, and to celebrate the centennial of his birth, we invited scholars, critics, curators, and artists of different generations and nationalities to provide essays on various aspects of Reinhardt’s aesthetic, cultural, intellectual, and political contributions. It was never our goal—neither in editing the texts we solicited, nor in selecting older writings to reprint—to take a particular position vis-a-vis the artist or the literature. Rather, our goal was to stage for the reader the diverse debates and uses to which Reinhardt’s art, life, and thought have been put in the past 50 or so years. We have included both new texts as well as fundemental historic essays. In the spirit of this special occasion, we wish to present the complexity of Reinhardt’s work and thought, and have therefore made no effort to reconcile divergent opinions and interpretations, hoping instead to launch further conversation.
We feel that this project only scratches the surface of things to say and think about Reinhardt. It is a beginning, not a conclusion. This special issue of the Rail coincides with an exhibition of Reinhardt’s black paintings, cartoons, and slides at David Zwirner. It also marks the launch of Brooklyn Rail Curatorial Projects with Correspondences: Ad Reinhardt at 100, an exhibition of paintings and sculptures by younger artists working in relation to Reinhardt’s legacy. We hope that our readers in New York will have a chance to see these two exhibitions before they close in mid-December.
We also hope that community, solidarity, dialogue, and a sense of continuity between generations will permit the preservation and advancement of historical memory, as well as an ongoing rapport regarding the relevance of Ad Reinhardt, and his contribution to that history.
We are deeply grateful to all our collaborators. First and foremost, the talented and dedicated staff and associates of the Brooklyn Rail, especially Rail publisher Phong Bui, as well as Maggie Barrett, Walter Chiu, Gaby Collins-Fernandez, Adam O’Reilly, Nathlie Provosty, Sara Roffino, and Dave Willis. Invaluable help was also provided by Lauren Knighton and Anna Gray at the David Zwirner Gallery, as well as Kara Carmack and Nick Irvin at the Ad Reinhardt Foundation.
—Alex Bacon/Barbara Rose
Ad Reinhardt, draft for “A Chronology,” originally published in Ad Reinhardt: Paintings (New York: Jewish Museum, 1966)
ALEX BACON is a critic, curator, scholar based in New York. Most recently, with Harrison Tenzer, he curated Correspondences: Ad Reinhardt at 100.