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Al Held - Al Held Foundation

Held in his Fifth Avenue studio, New York, 1964. Photo Manfred Tischer.

I am not an all-over painter. The rigid logic of two-dimensional esthetics binds us to the canvas surface making it an end in itself, not a means to an end.

I would like to develop from this not by going inwards toward the old horizon, but outward toward the spectator. The space between the canvas and the spectator is real—emotionally, physically, and logically. It exists as an actual extension of the canvas surface. I would like to use it as such and thus bridge the gulf that separates the painter from the viewer.

Al Held quoted in Sandler, “A Series of Statements,” It Is (Autumn 1958): 78

In my view, non-objective and abstract art have a special role in describing non-Newtonian reality—a reality in which our five senses are of little use. Some of the pioneers of Abstract Art (Mondrian, Kandinsky, etc.) considered themselves new- and ultra- realists, but were referring to the unconscious and/or metaphysical world. I, by contrast, am referring to a real world as described by Einsteinian and quantum physics. The current dialogues in mathematics and physics have always exerted a poetic fascination upon me. Their descriptions of worlds I will never be able to experience, inspire and excite my imagination, just as medieval artists were inspired by Biblical tales and invented visions of Heaven and Hell which they could neither see nor experience.

Al Held, Stephen Ostrow Distinguished Visitor in the Visual Arts, Reed College
Introductory remarks for a slide lecture, April 10, 2003

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