Barnett Newman discovered his own artistic language with Onement I (1948),
and he worked feverishly over the course of the next two years to explore its
potential. Newman moved the single zip away from the center of the canvas,
added more zips, oriented the zips horizontally, and widened them into broad
bands. He also introduced variations in the expressive mood of the zip.
Sometimes its edges are sharp, while at other times they are softly wavering.
The softness was caused by the neighboring color bleeding under the masking
tape into the zone reserved for the zip, blurring the vertical edge. Newman's
paintings of 1949-50 reflect a broad experimentation with color. He created
distinctive hues both on the palette and on the canvas; an area of color often
represents many layers of paint. Whether or not a painting was "right"
was based on Newman's intuitive appraisal of proportion and color. Most of the
paintings in this gallery were shown in Newman's first solo exhibition in 1950,
held at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York. At that time they were unnamed;
he invented the titles some years later.