Back in the 1950s, American artist Morris Louis as occupied in experimenting with new ways of painting and new materials. Like other artists during the times, he was focused on carrying out the legacy by Jackson Pollock. In 1953, Louis shouted Eureka when he visited Helen Frankenthaler’s atelier, discovering the answer from blots in her paintings.
This painting is one of Louis’ most representative painting series titled “Unfurled.” Bold colored paints stream down both sides of the canvas like rivers. The canvas is empty of sketching and the center is empty. Louis poured wet acrylic paint on the canvas and moved the canvas around in the direction he desired. The artist intervened outside of the painting and did not leave any trace of his work in the canvas. This was different from Pollack’s action painting. Louis had discovered a new method, but this time he was faced with material-related challenges. There were limitations in diluting the paint. After some thinking, Louis decided to send a letter to a major paint manufacturing firm in 1958. Two years later, the company finally succeeded in creating acrylic paints catered to Louis’ needs. In 1960, the artist unveiled his masterpiece “Unfurled” in 1960. He created over 150 pieces of artwork by the following year, despite using full-sized canvas that covered walls. He continued to experiment with materials to create better artwork, which he titled in Greek such as Alpha, Gamma, Beta, Delta as if classifying experiments.
What happened to Louis who was passionate about experimenting with materials? In 1962, nine years after discovering the stain technique, he passed away from cancer after many years of exposure to toxic chemicals and paint diluents. He lived a short life of 50 years, but his innovative technique and experimentation still inspires many artists today.