In 1964, as NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences prepared to move into its new home in Warren Weaver Hall, Al Held was one of several artists invited to submit proposals for a lobby mural. Although he did not win the commission, his sketch was acquired for the NYU Art Collection. He later painted a full-sized version, Greek Gardens, which measures twelve feet high and fifty-six feet long.
Early on, Abstract Expressionism was antithetical to geometric abstraction. But in the 1950s, Willem de Kooning demonstrated that gestural brushstrokes could encompass not only the body’s curves but also stripes, squares, and triangles. The point was taken up by younger painters like Held. By the early 1960s, he had arrived at an array of basic forms arranged in an elongated band. Works such as Mural Sketch harbor a secret: each seemingly generic shape—circle, square, triangle—is incomplete. Placed sequentially along the canvas, each shape challenges us to confront it individually before moving on to the next.