Barnett Newman The Voice 1950

  • Not on view

Newman was one of several Abstract Expressionists who made paintings that downplay traceable signs of the artist’s hand. In The Voice, the paint is applied so evenly that the only hint of texture comes from the weave of the canvas itself. The broad expanse of white is interrupted by an off-center “zip” of slightly darker white. The title deftly makes use of paradox, as it contradicts the silent mood of the pure white field.

Gallery label from 2011.
Additional text

The Voice is one of a number of paintings by European and American artists that appear to have a nearly blank surface. Newman interrupted his solid white canvas with a slightly darker white “zip,” a vertical line similar to those that comprise Cage’s 4’33”. Through The Voice, Newman was seeking a sense of the “sublime,” which he described as being at the intersection of beauty, transcendence, and the liberation from European culture in his article “The Sublime Is Now,” published in the magazine The Tiger’s Eye in 1948.

Historically, for many musicians and artists, the search for an otherworldly plane of being is a lifelong quest. Whereas Newman sought it through his paintings, which balance scale, color, and composition, Cage sought it through practicing Buddhism, playing chess with Marcel Duchamp, taking long walks, foraging mushrooms, and composing music of chance and silence.

Gallery label from There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33”, October 12, 2013–June 22, 2014.
Egg tempera and enamel on canvas
8' 1/8" x 8' 9 1/2" (244.1 x 268 cm)
The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection
Object number
© 2024 Barnett Newman Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture

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