There is no expressive or gestural use of a brush or palette knife in this work. When looking at Dalet zayin it becomes clear to the viewer that very diluted paint has flowed over the canvas. The artist probably fixed the loose canvas to a support and poured the paint from the top, manoeuvring it by tilting the canvas folds and perhaps steering it with something like a cloth wound round a stick. He and Kenneth Noland recalled seeing Helen Frankenthaler’s Mountains and sea in 1953 and being galvanised by its looseness and openness, with the colour spread out and stained, impregnating the weave.
Despite the intense black and red in this work, all is effortless and gentle, with no subject other than the flow of pure paint, yet with a strong suggestion of delicate swaying veils of colour. A particular pleasure is to be found in the way the paint thinner seeps out to leave high-tide marks at the margins.
The title, Dalet zayin, combines two letters of the Hebrew alphabet and was given arbitrarily after Louis’s death, when 400 works in his basement had to be catalogued.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008