Blank Canvas

Morris LouisUntitled, 1960.


The white canvas styled “raw” is a work left untouched. A creation by Morris Louis, his hand carefully drips a selection of magna in an angular downward motion. Letting it drip slowly, precise with direction, each curve and trickle was intentional. Embracing yet contradicting a gravitational flow, Untitled exhibits Louis’ experimentation within his evolving abstractive art practices.

The sequential dripping of magna fails to follow a rhythm. The blue stroke colliding with the black stroke, the yellow mixes with the black and the blue seeps into the red orange. Jagged edges, uneven strokes, faded coloring. Louis’ decision to leave each mark as is reflects Abstractionists’ embrace to let the material be autonomous, letting the material itself guide the work rather than the artist.

Your senses are startled by the emptiness, the loss of space. He leaves a literal blankness for our eyes to fill. Each curve stands as part of a whole. Although you can’t see the beginning or end of the line, it suddenly appears complete. Your gaze moves towards the curved lines, following its trail. Drawn to the lines, the colorful lines, you are no longer focused on a singular line but to the overall aesthetic. Keen to the coordination of line and space, color and depth, continuity and fluidness, you see the white no longer displays blankness but entices meaning.

Louis reintroduces the canvas and material through his designed practices. The sense of spontaneity occurs within each stroke. As the yellow trickles down, the darker magna hue thrusts beside it. Varying between similar hues of yellow and orange as well as browns and violets, the colors don’t necessarily strike the eye, but the lack of color does. The dominance of white disrupts the conventional vibrancy of a painting. Influenced by the radical idealism of the 60’s, Louis models his “modernist painting” by presenting a visual and invented detachment from the canvas.

“Always touching, never mixing.” Imagining an iteration of Louis’ thought process when creating. Morris’ series of abstract works include pieces like Beta Kappa and Alpha- Pi. It may not be apparent at first as it was with me, but each of these pieces has a slight but distinct trait that makes it singular. The definitive difference between each of these pieces is the core detailing that frames Louis’ work, THE COLOR! Magna being the only material applied to the canvas, it acts as the authenticating element within the three works. Daring with his unique color scheme for each piece, the strokes stand as an account of his artistic execution. Using the same design as Untitled, they all differ in the color of each stroke. The stroke leading the scene, enticing the eye to visualize what is and isn’t already there.

The interruption of the blank canvas, the stroke pulses with each curve and each interception of color.

Jasmine BootheComment