For five decades Robert Ryman has provocatively and consistently explored the richness of white paint. Rather than making illusionist or symbolic references to the outside world, Ryman creates immediate, energetic and lyrical paintings that make reference only to painting materials. He methodically and extensively investigates the basic components of painting-the matte or gloss of paint, the canvas and its stretchers, the tonal variations and the painting's interaction with light and space. Despite his formal connections to artists such as Malevich, Mondrian, Newman, Reinhardt and Rothko, Ryman's work has developed autonomously from other art movements. He places his work in a category he calls "realism," which, as he states, "has a different approach than representation and abstraction. With realism there is no picture and since there is no picture, there is no story. And there is no myth. And, there is no illusion, above all. So lines are real, and the space is real, the surface is real and there is an interaction between the painting and the wall plane, unlike with abstraction and representation." (R. Ryman, Robert Ryman, exh. cat., Paris 1991, p. 59).
Without a story or compositional structuring, experience is at the fulcrum of Ryman's paintings. His lack of pretense and fidelity to materials opens up his works' emotional resonance, creating art that is intense but calm, universal but specific, bold yet tame, thoughtful and expressive, straightforward but carefully planned. Series #33 (White) is no exception to Ryman's rigor of method nor the emphasis on the purity of experience. Ryman paints an image that is both foreboding and meditative--the dark edges transmit an ominous feel, while the nuanced variations of the white paint encourage intense study that is both calming and powerful.