David Reed AP2

In the 1970s, David Reed began making paintings with strokes directly brushed wet–into–wet across door–size canvases, measuring about fifty–five inches wide and seventy–six inches high. Each stroke was the length of Reed’s reach from a single standing position. These paintings are quite literal, measuring the dimensions and capabilities of Reed’s body, tracing the touch of his brush and its passage across the canvas. Drips attest to gravity and the fluidity of the oil paint. Like many post–war art works, they appear to aim at an extreme of matter–of–factness.

#543-3, 2004-2006/ 2010 2013
26 x 52 inches
Oil and alkyd on polyester
#636, 2010-2013
28 x 50 inches
Oil and alkyd on polyester
#645 E, 2014-2015
17 3/4 inches x73 3/4 inches x 1 1/2 inches 
acrylic and alkyd on polyester


The combination of paint and body determined the painting, makes the rules and prescribes its dimensions and its look. Frank Stella famously made his black paintings of the late 50s and early to mid–60s so that the interior of the painting sympathized with the exterior. Critic Michael Fried called this “deductive reasoning,” in that one could deduce what a painting would look like simply from the shape and dimensions of the canvas. The interior lines and shapes traced and echoed this larger form. Inverting Stella’s concept, Reed cut his canvas to fit the painting he knew he wanted to make, a painting that not incidentally was itself determined by his body’s physical facts, the length of his arm and brush, and its reach.

These paintings mark real time as much as real space: the brush moves, time passes. But even at this most basic level, something interrupts. Most obviously, these paintings are often put together of several vertical panels, each about eleven inches wide. The seams interrupt the works at about the position that Reed had noticed his earliest abstractions naturally breaking up, their all–over compositions falling apart. He took a gesture that began as an organic habit of his hand, analyzed it, and made it a condition of the painting — turning tendency into necessity. And, as Reed has himself noted, no matter how directly he worked, illusionism crept in: gravity made the wet paint drip, which inevitably created spatial depth.

#600-3, 2006-2009/ 2012-2013
36 x 144 inches
Oil and alkyd on linen
#615, 2000-2011
40 x 140 inches
Oil and alkyd on polyester
#627,2009-2012
102 x 18 inches
Oil and alkyd on polyester
#150, 1979
56 x 112 inches (two panels)
Acrylic on Canvas
Private collection, U.S.
#90, 1975
76 x 56 inches
Collection Guggenheim Museum
Test Piece No.1
Test Piece No.2
Test Piece No.3
Test Piece No.4
Test Piece No.5
Test Piece No.6
Sketchbook Pages containing mini tests
Test Piece No.7
Test Piece No.8
Test Piece No.9
Test Piece No.10

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