Adolph Gottlieb. Blues, 1962 - oil on canvas (Smithsonian)
In the late 1950s, Adolph Gottlieb started his “burst” paintings, a series of works that showed smooth, round areas of color above vigorous brushstrokes and splatters. This method brought together the two main currents of abstract expressionism: the soft tones of color field painting and the dramatic gestures of action painting. The black shape at the bottom of this image reflects the artist’s movement as he applied paint in one wide, twisting brushstroke. In contrast, the shades of blue above blend softly from light to dark, as if he used slower, more careful brushstrokes. Gottlieb played with opposites, painting pairs of shapes that evoke dualities such as night and day, sun and earth, and male and female (Alloway and MacNaughton, Adolph Gottlieb: A Retrospective, 1981).
ADOLPH GOTTLIEB: “Well, it happened that the title of that first painting was “Burst” so since then everybody calls them Bursts. Although I give them all different titles. But there was a different type of space than I had ever used and it was a further clarification of what I was trying to do. The thing that was interesting was that it was a return to a focal point, but it was a focal point with but the kind of space that had existed in traditional painting. Because this was like a solitary image or two images that were just floating in the canvas space. They had to hold the space and they also had to create all the movements that took place within the rectangle.”
Oral history interview with Adolph Gottlieb, 1967 Oct. 25, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.