Al Held created distinctly dramatic paintings, presenting his seemingly impenetrable compositions—from early gestural works to crisp geometric abstractions—on a theatrical scale. Bastion is part of the artist’s “Alphabet” series, which he made between 1961 and 1967. Held based these works more or less directly on the geometry of letters, bringing together aspects of Minimalism and Color Field painting via a hard-edged motif. Here, the edge of the canvas barely contains the image. A thick, dark-green line slinks across the bottom and up the right edge of the picture. Two small white squares push against this line from the bottom left and top right corners, creating tension. The title of the work, which refers to a fortified place, underscores this sentiment.
Label from Giant Steps: Artists and the 1960s, June 30–December 30, 2018