This magnificent painting, which features Motherwell's trademark use of deep black against an ochre background, radiates with earthly warmth. It is also displays the artist's characteristic "brilliant flair and sensual relish for calligraphy: the drawn line which lives a life of its own and implicitly travels a journey," as H.H. Arnason described it. (H.H. Arnason. Robert Motherwell. New York Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1977, 11). Thick black strokes begin their journey from the left side of the support moving out from the rectangle and roughly suggested upside down triangle. Some become thinner, wispy sweeps of black paint that end their voyage in a dot of black. Others shrink and grow and one strong breakaway moves upward, beyond the support. The interplay of bold and delicate calligraphic brushstrokes brings energy and movement to this work.
Dashes of shimmering yellow dance amidst the ochre backdrop and add an even greater brightness, a hesitant sunniness that peeks out from behind the broad swaths of black creating a dichotomy of emotion. Is darkness giving way to light, melancholy to joy, or will blackness prevail? This dichotomy of emotion was a hallmark of the artist as well as a major theme for the Abstract Expressionist painters of the New York School of which Motherwell was a figurehead both philosophically and aesthetically.
In his seminal speech "What Abstract Art Means to Me," Motherwell's contribution to a symposium at the Museum of Modern Art in 1951 that included Willem de Kooning and Alexander Calder among other major artists, he stated "The emergence of art is one sign that there are still men able to assert feeling in the world. Abstract art represents the particular acceptances and rejections of men living under the conditions of modern times. It is a fundamentally romantic response to modern life - rebellious, individualistic, unconventional, sensitive, irritableI think that one's art is just one's effort to wed oneself to the universe to unify oneself through union." (Stephanie Terenzio, ed. The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992, 84-85).