Untitled perfectly captures the vigor and intensity that Alfred Leslie brought to his abstract canvases. When he painted the work circa 1959, Leslie was widely recognized as an important member of the New York School's younger generation. As a ringleader of the downtown scene in New York at the time, he was involved in avant-garde film and literary ventures, and was particularly admired for his brusque, gestural abstractions.
Untitled features Leslie's signature motif of two defined parallel vertical strokes, which is boldly rendered in black on an field toward the right of the canvas, then echoed below in bright tones on a rich vibrant ground. This painterly double vertical mark is Leslie's counterpart to Barnett Newman's zips or Mark Rothko's rectangles. Leslie's large painted abstractions are related to his earlier paint and paper collages. Perhaps inspired by his experiences assembling collages, Leslie often divided his canvases into painted quadrants, emphasizing both their disjuncture and synthesis through their diverging colors and painterly marks. Allan Stone referred to a "classic dialogue" in Leslie's work, established through a contrast between geometrical compartments and interloping splashes of paint. Each one of these fields of color stacked next to each other is a bold and fascinating composition in its own right, and together they form a complex and engaging opus.