The Easel

The Disorienting Power of Al Held’s Black-and-White Paintings

Al Held was mentored by Rothko and had an early dalliance with abstract expressionism. But dimensionality attracted him. By the 1960’s he had left behind the AbEx theory of the “flat plane” and was painting hard edged geometric forms. “[Coupling diagonals and ellipses] with white shapes that could seem either solid or transparent … Held used these ambiguities to reintroduce the idea of imaginary space back into painting.”