Ad Reinhardt - Artworks & Biography | David Zwirner

Ad Reinhardt

March 9–May 20, 2018

Ad Reinhardt: Arte + Satira comprised over two hundred and fifty of the artist’s original political cartoons and satirical art comics and collages selected from the archives of the Estate of Ad Reinhardt in New York, on view for the first time in an Italian institution. Curated by Diana Baldon, this largely unexamined aspect of Reinhardt’s practice was accompanied by a slide show of digitized 35 mm color photographs by the artist, as well as a number of his travel journals, sketches, and pamphlets.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, both during and after the four years he was employed by the United States Federal Art Project in the easel division as an abstract painter, Reinhardt created over 3,000 witty cartoons and cover illustrations, which appeared in a wide range of American publications. These included the periodicals New Masses, The Student Advocate, and Fight Against War and Fascism; magazines as diverse as Glamour, Listen, and Ice Cream Field; as well as baseball yearbooks and The Races of Mankind, an anti-racist pamphlet that sold over a million copies. Most notably, Reinhardt served as the staff artist for the New York daily newspaper PM beginning in 1943, producing distinctive collage-cartoons that combined hand-drawn elements with cutouts from second­hand books, a striking technique never seen in daily newspapers before.

Reinhardt’s series of full-page art comics titled “How to Look” appeared in the Sunday edition of PM every two weeks throughout 1946. Didactic in tone, the comics served as a platform for Reinhardt’s defense of the development and understanding of abstract art in America. After 1947, Reinhardt occasionally published further comics in the art periodicals ARTnews, trans/formation, and Art d’aujourd’hui, among others, in which he expressed his satirical observations of the contemporary art world at the time.

Versions of this exhibition were presented as Hard to Picture: A Tribute to Ad Reinhardt at Mudam Luxembourg – Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg (2017), and as Ad Reinhardt: Art vs. History at Espoo Museum of Modern Art, Finland (2016), and Malmö Konsthall, Sweden (2015).

The Ad Reinhardt Foundation is gathering information about all known works of art by Ad Reinhardt in public and private collections for a multivolume catalogue raisonné.

The first volume will be devoted to the artist's blue paintings. Owners of works are encouraged to contact the Foundation, as the research phase of this first volume will be concluding in July 2017.

All information associated with the ownership of work in the catalogue raisonné is strictly confidential, and wishes for anonymity will be fully respected.

To submit information, please download a PDF of the catalogue raisonné questionnaire at or contact the Foundation at [email protected] or (212) 691 2205.

Ad Reinhardt Foundation
136 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10014

Ad Reinhardt

Ink, colored pencil, and gouache on paper mounted on paper
4 3/8 x 5 1/4 inches (11.1 x 13.3 cm)

June 17, 2017–January 21, 2018

Hard to Picture: A Tribute to Ad Reinhardt at Mudam musuem in Luxembourg focused on the artist's largely unexamined work as a published illustrator which ran parallel to his career as an abstract painter from the 1930s to the 1960s. Featuring over 250 political cartoons and satirical art comics from the archives of the Estate of Ad Reinhardt in New York, this was the largest ever exhibition of these works. Also presented will be Abstract Painting (1956), one of Reinhardt's minimal "black" canvases, a slide show of color slides, and many of the artist's travel journals, pamphlets, and sketches. This was their third presentation in Europe following Art vs. History at Malmö Konsthall in Sweden in 2015 and EMMA - Espoo Museum of Modern Art in Finland in 2016.

Reinhardt first developed an interest in cartooning as a child, refining his talent for drawing throughout elementary school before first earning money for his illustrations while in high school. This eventually allowed him to support his career as an abstract artist, keeping his painting free from commercial considerations. These activities were accompanied by his fierce commitment to politics, in particular pro-labor rights and anti-war campaigns, which remained vital to his identity. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, his illustrations and cartoons appeared in many American publications, notably the daily newspaper PM, the Marxist periodical New Masses and magazines from Glamour to Listen and Ice Cream Field. His popular series of art comics, How to Look (1946-1961), appeared in the Sunday edition of PM newspaper between 1946 and 1947; after this time, Reinhardt published additional art comics only occasionally in the art periodicals ARTnews, trans/formation, and Art d'aujourd'hui, among others.

Also part of the exhibition at Mudam were selected works by seven contemporary artists—Olav Westphalen, Judith Hopf, fellow David Zwirner artist Kerry James Marshall (whose works Dailies from Rythm Mastr (2010) and Black (2012) were included), Lili Reynaud-Dewar, Sara Cwynar, Luis Camnitzer, and Álvaro Oyarzún—which explored the ongoing impact of Reinhardt's work.

Read more: A review of the presentation at Malmö Konsthall in Frieze magazine

Installation view of the exhibition AD Reinhardt at David Zwirner New York, dated 2013.

On the occasion of the centennial anniversary of Ad Reinhardt's birth, David Zwirner presented an exhibition of the artist's work in collaboration with the Ad Reinhardt Foundation. Curated by Robert Storr, this was the gallery's inaugural exhibition of Reinhardt's work. The exhibition was on view at the gallery's 537 West 20th Street location from November to December 2013 and was awarded the "Best Show in a Commercial Space in New York" by the U.S. chapter of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA-USA).

On the occasion of the exhibition, the gallery published Ad Reinhardt How to Look: Art Comics, a fully illustrated catalogue of Reinhardt's art comics with a new essay by Storr. A major monograph is forthcoming.

Watch the video of Storr's guided tour of the exhibition.

This major museum retrospective of the work of Ad Reinhardt was co-organized by The Museum of Modern Art in New York and The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 1991. Curated by William Rubin, then Director Emeritus at the Museum of Modern Art, with MOCA's then-Director Richard Koshalek, Ad Reinhardt included 94 paintings, collages, and gouache works dating from the late 1930s through the 1960s—far more than had been shown in an earlier retrospective at The Jewish Museum in New York in late 1966.

Presented in New York from June 1–September 2, 1991 and in Los Angeles from October 13, 1991–January 5, 1992, the exhibition met with critical acclaim. In a review for The New York Times, Michael Brenson wrote, "It shows an artist who was constantly tested by the pictorial issues of flatness, drawing, directness and composition, but whose achievement cannot begin to be measured in pictorial terms alone. It shows a painter whose blocks and 'bricks' of color have a blend of ancientness and newness that is a prerequisite of a prophetic artistic tone: Reinhardt's paintings can seem to speak entirely in the present and yet breathe space and time." For William Wilson in The Los Angeles Times, the exhibition confirmed Reinhardt as "an artist so seminal that he is claimed by both Minimal and Conceptual schools as a source of innovation."

The exhibition was accompanied by a fully illustrated publication with texts by William Rubin and Yve-Alain Bois, co-published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In the preface to the publication, Rubin writes, "We judge art . . . not by what the artist doesn't do but by what he does. And if the range of experience in Reinhardt's painting increasingly narrowed, the quality of his work became increasingly profound. He seemed instinctively compelled to reduce the picture to that area in which he could make his most individual, most personal statement . . . We feel that the faint light which emanates from the resplendent 'black' pictures that end his career is the vestige of the refiner's fire."

It's been said many times in world-art writing that one can find some of painting's meanings by looking not only at what painters do but at what they refuse to do.

A quick glance at modern-art history shows that for Courbet—no antiques or angels, no traditional authorities or academies, no classical idealisms or romantic exoticisms, no fantasies, no world beyond our world. For Manet and Cézanne—no myths or messages, no actions or imitations, no orgies, no pains, no dreams, no stories, no disorders. For Monet, no subjects or objects, no fixities or absolutes, no chiaroscuro or plasticities, no textures or compositions, no timelessness, no terror, no studio setups, no imaginary scenes, no muddy colors. For the cubists—no pictures or puzzles, no closed or natural forms, no fixed arrangements, no irrationalism, no unconsciousness. For Mondrian—no particularities or local elements, no irregularities or accidents or irrelevancies, no oppression of time or subjectivity, no primitivism, no expressionism.

And today many artists like myself refuse to be involved in some ideas. In painting, for me no fooling-the-eye, no window-hole-in-the-wall, no illusions, no representations, no associations, no distortions, no paint-caricaturing, no dream pictures or drippings, no delirium trimmings, no sadism or slashings, no therapy, no kicking-the-effigy,  no clowning, no acrobatics, no heroics, no self-pity, no guilt, no anguish, no supernaturalism or subhumanism, no divine inspiration or daily perspiration, no personality-picturesqueness, no romantic bait, no gallery gimmicks, no neo-religions or neo-architectural hocus-pocus, no poetry or drama or theater, no entertainment business, no vested interests, no Sunday hobby, no drug-store museums, no free-for-all history, no art history in America of ashcan-regional-WPA-Pepsi-Cola styles, no professionalism, no equity, no cultural enterprises, no bargain-art commodity, no juries, no contests, no masterpieces, no prizes, no mannerisms or techniques, no communication or information, no magic tools, no bag of tricks-of-the-trade, no structure, no paint qualities, no impasto, no plasticity, no relationships, no experiments, no rules, no coercion, no anarchy, no anti-intellectualism, no irresponsibility, no innocence, no irrationalism, no low level of consciousness, no nature-mending, no reality-reducing, no life-mirroring, no abstracting from anything, no nonsense, no involvements, no confusing painting with everything that is not painting.

This text by Ad Reinhardt is published in Barbara Rose, ed., Art as Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt.  New York, Viking Press, 1975.

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