A formative member of the New York School, Barnett Newman established the group’s early tenets with the help of Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko. He organized exhibitions and discussion groups, lectured, and wrote about art. His views embraced such fundamental issues as order and chaos, life and death, man and nature, as well as spirituality and metaphysics. His abstract, often monochromatic works that incorporate signature “zips,” vertical bands that cut through the picture plane, were influential for the later Minimalists.
Throughout his career, Newman experienced periods when he stopped painting altogether. During one such episode, following the death of his brother George in 1960, he was introduced to lithography by a concerned friend, fellow painter Cleve Gray, who thought that working in a new medium might spark Newman’s interest. He directed Newman to the Pratt Graphic Art Center, a print workshop loosely affiliated with Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. The Graphic Art Center was available to students as well as established artists looking to experiment with printmaking mediums. Newman made three lithographs at Pratt in 1961, including this Untitled work, which can be viewed in relation to his monumental painting cycle and personal meditation on mortality, The Stations of the Cross: Lema Sabachthani of 1958–66.
Newman described himself as being “captivated” by lithography and by the various possibilities offered by different inks and papers. In the final decade of his life, he was an extremely productive printmaker, creating approximately forty editions in a variety of mediums. He worked primarily at Universal Limited Art Editions, Tatyana Grosman’s renowned Long Island printmaking studio.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 133.