The artists had various reasons why and how to approach the ‘monochrome’:

  • A spiritual sense and feeling of tabula rasa, emptiness, tranquility through abstraction: Kazimir Malevich (the icon), Barnett Newman (the sublime), Robert Rauschenberg, Yves Klein, Agnes Martin, and
  • A formal interrogation of ‘purity’ and reductionist approach towards form: Alexandr Rodchenko, Ad Reinhardt, Robert Ryman, Allan McCollum
  • Later one can see artists approaching the ‘monochrome’ less in a Modernist optical sense but more as a tactile experience of a single medium: Robert Ryman, Jason Martin. Another approach to ‘Monochrome’ was coming from Korea in the 1970s in the movement of ‘Dansaekhwa’ (that means ‘monochrome painting’), a rather additive, layering approach with a relationship to nature compared to the reductionist Modernist approach e.g. Chung Sang-Hwa.

Main artists who addressed  ‘pure’ monochromes:


Stefan513593 - Assignment2 - monochrome - log pages

Stefan513593 – Assignment2 – monochrome – log pages

Influential movements towards ‘Monochrome’ and the ‘Blank Canvas’:

Arthur Danto expresses the evolvment of Modernist Painting towards the ‘Monochrome’ in reference to american art historian Douglas Crimp as the ‘modernist narrative according which art progressively strives to achieve identity with its own material base’ (Danto, 1997, p.154). Color was continously subtracted and the emphasis was on form and shape as the medium to explore. The artists were going beyond the focus on ‘optical data’ alone (ebid, p. 158) and texture and gestural traces of the artist’s hand were more and more neglected.

‘Monochrome’ paintings have a long ‘tradition’ going back perhaps much earlier than the begining of the 20th centurry. However, I am focusing on key movements and artists from the last century alone, to understand better the context for McCollum’s ‘Surrogates’.

Suprematism (1913 – )