UntitledArtist(s)Harry NadlerObject Creation Date1976Medium & Supportoil on canvasDimensions
39 5/8 in x 39 5/8 in (100.65 cm x 100.65 cm);40 1/4 in x 40 1/2 in x 1 3/8 in (102.24 cm x 102.87 cm x 3.49 cm)Label copy
Harry Nadler, a California-born artist, taught for the last two decades of his life in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he headed the department of art and art history. After receiving the first Fulbright fellowship to Spain awarded to an artist, Nadler emerged as a figural painter in New York in the 1960s. Gradually he grew to favor the order of pure geometry. Yet the controlling structure of his canvases is always tempered by richly textured surfaces that reveal the traces of his own hand. Untitled of 1976 reveals fascinating tensions between simplicity and sensuality.
Like his Minimalist contemporaries, and precursors such as Piet Mondrian, Nadler relied on the grid as an organizing principle. A network of golden lines provides the underlying armature for the museum’s painting. These lines are partially obscured by the thinly painted white rectangles that seem to emerge from the chaotic mass of white brushstrokes along the edges of the canvas. Toward the center of the painting a diamond encloses a square. The diamond, with its gray tones, and the square, with its white ones, differ coloristically, yet they are closely keyed. The subtle tonal distinctions between them create the impression of two separate layers, introducing a hint of spatiality in a nearly monochrome painting that at first glance seems perfectly flat.
The orderly application of paint in the diamond and square fields articulates and unites them. In both areas brushstrokes are arranged perpendicularly in repeating patterns. Short vertical and horizontal marks in black, punctuated by little orange and blue spots, suggest mazelike pathways. The labyrinthe distracts from the intimations of depth by calling attention to the surface. Overall, the deliberately, though not precisely, placed brushmarks evoke the unpredictability of the human touch.
The maze was an idea that Nadler explored in his Labyrinthe Series of 1977-1978. The ancient motif of the maze connotes mystery and elusiveness. The image held for Nadler the meaning of a spiritual quest. A forerunner of this series, the museum’s painting similarly evokes the journey of human consciousness.
Annette Dixon, Curator of Western Art
A Closer Look, 1995Primary Object ClassificationPaintingCollection AreaModern and ContemporaryRights
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modern and contemporary art