By Anita Feldman, “Ed Clark and the Abstract Shaped Canvas: A Memoir”
In Edward Clark: for the Sake of the Search, 1997.
Certain Works command our attention long before they light up our minds. One of those compelling and puzzling works, for me, was an untitled painting-collage made in 1956 by Ed Clark. I first saw it at the Brata, an artists' cooperative gallery on Tenth Street, in a group show that opened late in 1957. The Brata members had arranged with five or six other downtown cooperatives to begin their Christmas invitational exhibitions together, and the openings must have drawn a thousand visitors—mostly artists and their friends—to Tenth Street that night. At such crowded openings, it's proverbially hard to see the paintings, but Clark's work was an exception. Facing me as I entered the gallery (down two wide steps and through a splintery wooden door), the piece had a decisive energy that dominated the room and the moment.
The energy emanated, somehow, from the red shape that slanted over the top edge of the canvas. Because of that shape, thongs and thoughts had changed places, in a way that seemed inconceivable until that moment and inevitable afterwards. It was as a voice had cut through the haze of open-night chatter, as if someone had said in a clear, firm whisper, "Here. Now. Remember this."
...For us, now, Clark's version of shaped canvas draws its strength; its force and logic from the contrast between two realities, subjective (or virtual) and material. The subjective or virtual reality of sensation and emotion is conveyed by traditional mediums and techniques. ...His first shaped painting showed him, and other artists, how this happens, how an abstract painting might intensify this effect, and how a work of art that commands our attention can also light up our minds...