Gottlieb created his first Burst paintings in 1956, and began a series that would become his trademark and change the course of his painting. The Burst paintings developed from the Imaginary Landscape works that predated them. Imaginary Landscapes featured hovering geometric shapes above a horizon line which delineated a dense, painterly foreground. Burst paintings are marked by a floating orb above a gestural "burst" against a monochrome field. These compositional paradigms proved to be endlessly fascinating to the artist, who developed and elaborated their possibilities until his death in 1974.
Black Focal Point is a masterful painting, created later in Gottlieb's career, and representative of the virtuosity of Gottlieb's pictoral language. The artist has converged his two motifs in the present work. Two orbs, one black and one taupe, float against a deep red ground above looping brushstrokes and splatters of black, taupe and white. The simple palette belies the tension that energizes the painting; the gravitas of the negative space between the hovering orbs and the gestural ground. The orbs are alike in shape and mass yet unique in color and surface. The violent splatter accentuates the uniformity of the red background and the infinite space that it represents.
Like his New York School contemporaries, Gottlieb was concerned with a Freudian/Jungian interpretation of the individual and shared the goal of trying to represent this view in his paintings. Gottlieb pursued a vision that Sanford Hirsch argued maintained "...that the various elements which make up the individual exist as a whole, and that this whole contains irrational as well as rational elements in a precarious balance. This balance, Gottlieb believed, is constantly shifting, constantly trying to implode or explode, yet always remains in some sort of equilibrium. In the late paintings Gottlieb found his means to contain this involved view, and concerned himself equally with the active and passive forced in which he believed" (S. Hirsch, Adolph Gottlieb, exh. cat., M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, 1982).