Blacker than black?

Ad Reinhardt, Abstract Painting 1960-66, Oil on canvas, 60 x60 inches

"The blackest black ever made on Earth..."
has been created by scientists bubbling a shiny metal plate in nitric acid for a few seconds, resulting in a material that absorbs 99.9% of all visible light. I emphatically say wow to this. The new super-black will apparently have a major impact in certain fields of scientific research and industry.

And for the rest of us?
Does a color exist if there is no one to see it?

Black is a color; black is not a color: depends on who you ask. How about Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg, Jacqueline Humphries, Ad Reinhardt, Joseph Marioni or Pat Steir, for starters.

Pat Steir The Dark 2007 Oil on Canvas 134 x 215 1/4 inches, at Cheim Read

Black does not reflect light at any point of the visible spectrum. A response to zero stimulation of the retina, the perception of black depends on contrast with surrounding color stimuli.

Black is the achromatic color value of minimum lightness or maximum darkness,
the color of objects that absorb nearly all light of all visible wavelengths,
and one extreme of the neutral gray series, the opposite being white.

Jacqueline Humphries Untitled 2005 Oil on linen, 36 x 44 inches

If it can be defined in light, then black is the absence of light and therefore not a color -- most especially not Super-Black. But what if defined as a pigment? Then it is a color, most especially Super-black.

Joseph Marioni Violet Painting 2004 Acrylic on linen 78 x 62 inches at Larry Becker Contemporary Art

It is a matter of vision and reflection, a physiological response jaded by our brain.

Kate Beck, Black_2_0208 Digital Image: Pre-Dawn Light, Winter

Super-black reflects 10 to 20 times less light than the current black standard, and is measured as being 30 times darker. So in physics, at least, a black body is a perfect absorber of light.

does Super-black exist if there is no one to see it?

Please, get it in a paint can, whether I can see it or not.


Anonymous said...


Kate Beck said...

Hey -- Thanks Pam -- you know I value your insight! I've actually been pretty caught up in Vincent Romaniello's paintings -- which I first saw on your blog and then again on Steven Alexander's. Thanks for that...


Fiona said...

Black - well there's a thought! But there are different blacks just as there are variations in other pigments. Put one black next to another, like those art school exercises, and each looks darker or lighter. I love the images you have posted here Kate. Pat Steir's painting is beautiful and I can see why you might like it too. Jacqueline Humphries painting is intriguing, it draws me in but it is frustratingly difficult to see it properly digitally. As always you introduce people I have never heard of and I want to find out more. As for your Black pre-dawn light - a bit of tautology here! It is very very dense almost the perfect black that you are referencing and it looks very velvety. But as always we are at the mercy of our computer screens.

Kate Beck said...

Enlarge my digital image, Fiona, and perhaps you will be able to see the faint reflection of two orbs in the bottom right quadrant. Keep looking at Humphries - she's fantastic.