As early as 1941, when most of his peers were still making figurative or semi-figurative paintings, Clyfford Still created this nearly monochromatic black canvas. PH-154 (1941-2-C) is one of scores of predominantly black works he would paint over the course of his career. While Still was not the only Abstract Expressionist to extensively use black, his mastery of it was nevertheless extraordinary.
Still’s layered black and near-black tones are enveloping and provocative, charged with drama. He rejected the common interpretation of black as a somber tone that lacked the dynamism or energy of brightly colored abstractions, and he famously said, “Black was never a color of death or terror for me. I think of it as warm—and generative. But color is what you choose to make it.”
Label from Shade: Clyfford Still / Mark Bradford, May 26–October 2, 2016