Reinhardt’s painting is like fog climbing over the Golden Gate Bridge—the more that is hidden, the more there is to see. Like all good magicians, Reinhardt knew that to have magic and mystery, you must hide.
The spirituality and the contemplative nature of his painting have far more to do with the history and attitudes of the Pacific Rim than with the West. I had the good fortune to attend the opening of Reinhardt’s retrospective at the Jewish Museum in 1966, and have never forgotten how foreign his work seemed to be in the presence of the New York scene. Philosophically, Reinhardt would have been right at home on the West Coast. It is certainly fair to compare Ad Reinhardt and John McLaughlin, both in their life-long study of Eastern culture and their search to paint “nothing.”
Like very good wine, Ad Reinhardt’s painting will probably always be drunk by only a few. The paintings, however, are always accessible if one has the vision and the patience to partake in the experience. They can be returned to again and again, giving us new information—not seen earlier—about the paintings, the universe, and ourselves.
Originally printed in ArtSpace (January-April 1992) from “An Artist’s Forum on Ad Reinhardt.”
TONY DELAP is a painter, sculptor, and professional magician, and formerly head of the U.C., Irvine Art Department.