In comparison to Motherwell’s other collages executed around 1960, In White and Yellow Ochre is a more abstract, enigmatic, and complex collaged image. While its central motif might allude to an upright figure, elements in the upper part could be interpreted as a landscape with an implied horizon line. A refined, decorative quality arises from the muted colors (predominantly ochre and white), the sparse brushstrokes and drips, and the calligraphic nature of the Cyrillic text in the central newsprint fragment. Such restraint is shattered, however, by the ragged, torn edges and splattered ink spots of the newsprint motif, whose black staring eye jars and shocks the viewer into acknowledging the existence of darker elements, establishing a conflict between elegance and raw force.
Duncan Phillips purchased In White and Yellow Ochre on the occasion of Motherwell’s one-person exhibition of his collages in 1965 held at The Phillips Collection. The sophisticated air and controlled expressiveness of In White and Yellow Ochre made a strong statement about the artist's temperament, a combination of reserve and expressiveness that Phillips had also hailed and valued in some of Motherwell's colleagues—Bradley Walker Tomlin and Philip Guston, in particular.