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Louis's Third Element, executed in the last year of his life, gives evidence to the strength of his painting even when he was debilitated by lung cancer. As an example of the Stripes series, the present work is a dramatic picture of chromatic shifts, with hues ranging between brilliant yellow, orange, blue, red, and green. Although the blank areas of unprimed canvas on either side of the stripes are asymmetrical, because of the proportions of the width and height of the stripes, the overall effect of the painting is one of dynamic equilibrium. The vertical orientation of the picture alludes to the composition being rooted and the stripes subject to gravity. Yet unlike the accidental drips of the Abstract Expressionists, Louis's pours are controlled and masterful.
Clement Greenberg wrote in 1960 about Louis's transformation of the medium and support into an painterly image, "Louis spills his paint on unsized and unprimed cotton duck canvas, leaving the pigment almost everywhere thin enough for the eye to sense the threadedness and wovenness of the fabric underneath. But 'underneath' is the wrong word. The fabric being soaked in paint rather than merely covered by it, becomes paint in itself, like dyed cloth; the threadedness and woveness are in the color" (Cited in M. Fried, Morris Louis, New York, 1970, p. 23).