Morris Louis, Alpha Phi, 1961, acrylic on canvas.
This painting conveys abstract painting at its finest. Simple, clean and bright this painting is something I imagine seeing at Ikea as one of their many mass-produced canvases. While there’s something ordinary and unoriginal about this painting, at the same time, the technique used to create Alpha Phi makes it truly unique.
This is literally a one-shot technique. Louis would pour paint down the two bottom end corners of the canvas, leaving the center of the canvas bare. There were no re-dos once the acrylic paints were poured. The technique is abstract visually but concrete theoretically.
There’s a sense of flatness in the painting as there is no complete image or message. There is simply an idea on the canvas. A thought. Some lines. And the lines lead the eyes into the center of nothingness.
Louis used an interesting perspective that, to me, conveys an open spatial emotion that is refreshing. Where most artists have visions of grandeur and intricate scenes, meanings and frames, Louis uses the lines and blankness to speak for itself. It represents however much the viewer chooses to dig into.
In a museum in London or in the living room of an uber-chic, uber-clean lined California home, the painting is applicable to any intellectual perspective. The image could simply be a fun-colored zebra print, or much more as a symbolic image of life and death.
It’s in the simplicity that I see so much more than a living room piece. To me, the lines Louis poured are like the lines on you hand, each one a symbol and measure of a trait, and even bigger, a life journey. The lifelines, if you will, hit this middle space of void where what is to come is ambiguity. It’s for you to journey through and find.
This beautiful abstract piece illustrates an abstract idea of life and what’s to come. Sometimes the blank space on a canvas can say a hundred times more than a fortune of someone else’s future by a painter.