This raw textured canvas is painted in two apparently conflicting colour tonalities, black and a mixture of white and light yellow. The picture is clearly defined and restricted by a thin, unevenly painted black line on the right side of it.
This painting is one of the biggest expressions of Barnett Newman's "zip" concept. A "zip" is a vertical line that travels across the canvas and stretches through it from the bottom to the top.
A "zip" is never meant to divide the picture into two or more sides, instead, it only attempts to unify its halves and create a perfect balance within contrasting colours.
Newman first introduced the "zip" concept in "Onement I", and then painted a whole series of canvases with the same motif, every time with some slight variations on it ("Onement I", II, III, IV, V, VI). In addition to this series, Newman also painted other canvases like Dyonisius" with horizontal zips.
This canvas conveys a sense of mystery, but its enigmatic composition allows a wider range of possible meanings and makes its content universal. The painting does not speak with a certain type of people in mind, but instead, it carries a global and unified message. Barnett Newman's works are famous for this multiplicity of interpretations that perfectly represent the cultural instability of the crucial years that followed World War II.
During his life, Barnett Newman designed also a sculpture, "Black Obelisk" (1963 - 1967), composed of an Egyptian pyramid with an inverted obelisk on its top. The monument rephrases the zip concept and transposes it in a three-dimensional space. The two halves of the sculpture connect along the vertical axis and seem to describe a line like the one painted here.