19 APRIL–27 MAY 2023
Al Held, Particular Paradox #20, 1999
Watercolor on paper mounted on board
121.3 x 162 x 7.4 cm | 47 3/4 x 63 3/4 x 2 15/16 in. (framed)
© Al Held Foundation, Inc. Photo © White Cube (David Westwood)

Watercolors are an important facet in the work of American abstract painter Al Held (1928–2005), they form a distinct body of work in his oeuvre, demonstrating how he positioned the discipline in parallel to painting, they highlight his exploration of form, color and space.

Associated in his early years with a generation of American abstract painters, Held was drawn to Europe early on in his career, moved to and lived in Paris between 1951 and 1953, and spent time in Italy committed to an intensive study of Renaissance painting.

The exhibited watercolors, with some extremely large in scale, were exclusively painted in Italy. They testify to Held’s status as an exceptional colorist as well as a pioneer of hard-edged abstraction. Their colliding perspectives and impossible trajectories produce a feeling of vast and vertiginous volumetric expanse. It is as if the viewer was looking on the edge of an ever-receding, three-dimensional space in which sinuous ribbons thread through patterned planes and architectonic forms loom large towards the viewer with magical intensity.