At first glance this painting presents a flat black surface. But longer viewing reveals more than one shade of black and an underlying geometric structure. Reinhardt has divided the canvas into a three-by-three grid of squares. The black in each corner square has a reddish tone; the shape between them formed by the center squares is bluish-black in its vertical bar and greenish-black in its horizontal bar. Reinhardt tried to produce what he described as "a pure, abstract, non-objective, timeless, spaceless, changeless, relationless, disinterested painting—an object that is self-conscious (no unconsciousness), ideal, transcendent, aware of no thing but art".
"Abstract Painting contains three distinct shades of black, which become visible only after prolonged looking. Reinhardt was intensely sensitive to such subtle variations. He explained, “There is a black which is old and a black which is fresh. Lustrous black and dull black, black in sunlight and black in shadow.” When Reinhardt’s black paintings were first exhibited at MoMA, in 1963, their reductive imagery and stark palette shocked visitors, prompting at least one Museum membership cancellation in protest." (Abstract Expressionist New York)