Al Held “Black and White Paintings” at Cheim & Read

Cheim & Read is pleased to present eight monumental black and white paintings, dating from 1967 to 1969, Al Held (1928–2005). An exhibition of Held’s “Alphabet Paintings,” made between 1961 and 1967, was exhibited at the gallery in 2013.


This exhibition focuses on the unique series of paintings Held began in 1967, in which various geometric forms, arranged in multiple perspectives, are rendered within the strict confines of a black-and-white palette. Perhaps inspired by the India ink drawings of lines, circles, triangles, and squares that he made in 1966, Held had already begun moving away from the flat, boldly-colored shapes of his earlier work. Using charcoal and white acrylic directly on canvas, he started sketching multi-dimensional, interlocking configurations, surrounding them with colored ground. In late 1967, this experimentation yielded to an increasingly graphic, complex, and illusory space. While compositions were still worked out on the canvas, often in several iterations, Held’s soft-edged charcoal was replaced by the sharply defined contours of uniformly painted forms, their thick black outlines positioned against a stark white field. The paintings featured in this exhibition encompass the initial phase of this new body of work. The “B/W series” is comprised of Held’s first fully realized canvases in his new style and limited palette, while works from the “Phoenicia” series are more explicit in their development of multiple perspectives and vanishing points, resulting in evermore ambiguous spatial relationships. As with his earlier work, Held painted on a monumental scale; the majority of these canvases measure over nine feet tall.

Start Date

February 18, 2016

End Date

March 26, 2016


10:00 AM - 06:00 PM


Cheim & Read, 547 W 25th St, New York, NY

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