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Thornton Willis, Billboard, 2011, Elizabeth Harris Gallery
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by Charlie Finch

Watching Barnett Newman muse about his own work in an interview on YouTube, I am fascinated by his inability to justify or explain it. "I got rid of the atmosphere," he says, discussing Onement (1948), his initial foray into zipness or stripeness. "I lived with this painting for eight months." Newman continues, "A painter becomes a kind of choreographer of space" -- and then, bizarrely, "it is like applying eyeliner," as he drags on a cigarette and breathes heavily.