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Barnett Newman's Black Fire I

Black Fire I is a sublime Abstract Expressionist masterpiece that perfectly captures Barnett Newman’s radically reductive and uncompromising aesthetic. The Zen-like simplicity of Black Fire I embodies the spirituality, grandeur and solemnity that define all of Newman’s greatest works. Painted during a period of refrain after suffering the loss of his younger brother, Newman negotiated his emotions through the language of abstraction. Continuing the dynamic tension between light and dark that was first established in the Stations of the Cross, the composition of Black Fire I exhibits a similar weighty sense of the absolute. Through creating the Stations of the Cross, Newman had chosen to reject the allegorical distractions of color in order to create a pure, distilled emotional statement through the subtle nuances of spatial relationships and expressive brushwork alone. Newman’s decision to place black pigment on raw canvas gave way to Black Fire I and it was this deliberation that allowed Newman to communicate, at the highest degree, the universal dualities of existence: light and darkness, creation and destruction, form and formlessness. Black Fire I holds an important place within Barnett Newman’s oeuvre, having resided in several distinguished American collections of modern art. It was featured in two important international group exhibitions shortly after it was created.