Totality: Abstraction and Meaning in the Art of Barnett Newman
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By Michael Schreyach
Totality offers a deeply researched and thoughtful account of the art of Barnett Newman (1905–1970). While Newman’s paintings are widely regarded as among the most significant statements of abstract expressionism—and emblematic of modernism at midcentury—they pose distinct challenges to formal description and historical evaluation. With this book, Michael Schreyach guides readers toward a transformed understanding of Newman’s profound body of work.
Through a sequence of close readings, Schreyach examines six key terms—symbol, surface, self-evidence, space, standpoint, and scale—that illuminate the meaning of Newman’s claims for the “metaphysical” content of his art. Totality progresses from the meticulous analysis of the technical structure and visual appearance of specific works to critical and archivally documented arguments about Newman’s intentions. The result is an altogether original interpretation of the artist’s enterprise, as surprising as it is nuanced.