In the late 1950s, Adolph Gottlieb started his “burst” paintings, a series of works that showed smooth, round areas of color above vigorous brushstrokes and splatters. This method brought together the two main currents of abstract expressionism: the soft tones of color field painting and the dramatic gestures of action painting. The black shape at the bottom of this image reflects the artist’s movement as he applied paint in one wide, twisting brushstroke. In contrast, the shades of blue above blend softly from light to dark, as if he used slower, more careful brushstrokes. Gottlieb played with opposites, painting pairs of shapes that evoke dualities such as night and day, sun and earth, and male and female (Alloway and MacNaughton, Adolph Gottlieb: A Retrospective, 1981).