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Newman first introduced the "zip" concept in Onement I, and then painted a whole series of canvases with the same motif, every time with some slight variations on it ("Onement I", II, III, IV, V, VI ). In addition to this series, Newman also painted other canvases like Dyonisius with horizontal zips. This canvas conveys a sense of mystery, but its enigmatic composition allows a wider range of possible meanings and makes its content universal. The painting does not speak with a certain type of people in mind, but instead, it carries a global and unified message. Barnett Newman's works are famous for this multiplicity of interpretations that perfectly represent the cultural instability of the crucial years that followed World War II. Newman's way of working was superficially simple: he painted large areas of color, which he demarcated with adhesive tape. He later removed this - the name Newman used for the characteristic middle bar resulted from the sound: "Zip". The artist, who dealt intensively with Jewish mysticism and the creation myth, saw in this "zip" a kind of big bang, a metaphor for that moment in which the creator divides nothing and lets something emerge.

Barnett Newman (born January 29, 1905 in New York, † July 4, 1970 New York) was an American painter and sculptor. In addition, his writings on art theory had a major influence on the development of painting in the 20th century, especially on the emergence of Minimal Art. The American painter Barnett Newman is considered one of the most influential Abstract Expressionists and, alongside Mark Rothko, is one of the most famous color field painters. Newman was born in New York and studied at City College as an expressionist artist. He decided he didn't like his work and destroyed every painting. Barnett Newman became a member of the Uptown Group of Artists and had his first solo exhibition at the famous and influential Betty Parsons Gallery. Newman is famous for his "zippers"; thin vertical lines of color that divide the colors in his canvases. Newman's most famous paintings are from the Onement series. Newman rejected Jackson Pollock's paint spray technique and Clyfford Still's brush strokes, and to a lesser extent Mark Rothko for a flat field of color. Black Fire I is an oil on canvas abstract expressionist painting by Barnett Newman, completed in 1961. It is one of those images that neatly draws boundaries: here the "why-is-art-I-can-also-do" faction, there the caste of the initiated. Barnett Newman's painting Black Fire I - a canvas, partly black, partly unpainted, divided by two lines and was auctioned at Christie's New York for 84,165,000 US dollars, the equivalent of 61.3 million euros; it is a new record price for a work by the artist who died in 1970. A "zip" is never meant to divide the picture into two or more sides, instead, it only attempts to unify its halves and create a perfect balance within contrasting colors.


Barnett Newman


Oil on canvas, 289,5 x 213,3 cm
 Private Collection
 Photo © Christie‘s Images / Bridgeman Images
 Barnett Newman © Bildrecht, Wien 2021

242 | Black Fire I (Schwarzes Feuer I), 1961



Newman's work revolves around this absolute reduction of the enormously large, perhaps the largest, topic that art can take on. The monochrome "Zip" paintings are a preliminary end point of a long development, anything but simple gestures. Of course, Newman met the spirit of his time - New York had replaced Paris as the art center of the world and could use new creator gods quite well; the contemporary art business of the 1950s ranked Newman among the great names of today's mythical Abstract Expressionism. All those who are still not impressed by the great reputation of the great painter are advised to take a look at a Newman painting in the original. Because what looks unspectacular in the photo has an unbelievable brilliance in direct experience: Newman chose his formats very carefully and put them in relation to the viewer; the vertical lines ("zips") are distributed over the image in such a way that the eye inevitably relates them to the edge of the image or to other lines in the image. In addition, the lines are never one hundred percent clean, color sometimes flows over the borders. The image starts to move, begins to flicker, sometimes almost seems to float. Generating such experiences with minimal resources was one of Newman's goals.

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