Like his Minimalist contemporaries, Ryman is a carefully systematic artist, but he has a painter's respect for the qualities of surface and touch. To examine the medium methodically, he imposes two limitations: his paintings are white, and square. Yet white, Ryman shows, changes dramatically depending on what paint is used and how it is applied. Paint lies differently on different supports, and Ryman has used a gamut of materials besides canvas, including cardboard, wood, and aluminum. The scale of his works varies widely. Exploring the way the painting stands against the wall, Ryman has used all the stages between near flush and deep relief. He has also made the painting's hanging devices integral to the composition.
In Pace the painting is horizontal. The narrow edge of the work is unpainted redwood. The upward plane is fiberglass, and is painted in a reflective white enamel, while the underside, also white, has a soft, light-absorbent surface. The painting is supported by wall fasteners and aluminum legs.
Paintings are always hung vertically against the wall, Ryman realized, because pictures "need to be seen that way. I thought . . . since I'm not really making pictures, a work could possibly not be vertical. It could be just the opposite. . . . I thought I was a little crazy, but I thought, 'I'll try it; it'll be interesting, a challenge.'"
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 339.