Kenneth Noland

(1924-2010)

About The Artist

Second-generation Color Field abstractionist, Kenneth Noland, was born in 1924 in Asheville, North Carolina. After completing his service with the Army Air Corps in 1945, Noland used his G.I. Bill benefits to study painting at Black Mountain College in his hometown. It was here that Noland came under the mentorship of Josef Albers and became increasingly interested in expressions of color theory. In 1948, Noland moved to Paris to study with sculptor Ossip Zadkine and received his first solo show at Galerie Raymond Creuze. His early works revealed painterly forms and referential systems that drew influence from the styles of senior Abstract Expressionists. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1949, Noland pursued a number of teaching engagements in the Washington, D.C. area. Over the course of the 1950s, Noland developed fruitful relationships with influential figures in the Color Field movement, including the painters Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler, and critic Clement Greenberg, and by the end of the decade he abandoned his earlier tendencies and began exclusively practicing Color Field painting. Having become intent on demonstrating pure expressions of color, Noland sought to eliminate all possible allusions to emotional content and real-world objects. This led to his experimentation with shaped canvases, which abolished any notion of background or staging, and adoption of Frankenthaler’s “soak stain” method that rid his works of “objective” brush strokes. Noland developed his signature stripes, chevrons, and concentric rings as near scientific templates for color investigations.

Throughout the 1960s, the artist manipulated and skewed these shapes to test the tension and balance between color and space. Through these alterations, however, Noland discovered that the destabilizing force of asymmetry added a heightened sense of drama to his paintings and distracted from his primary examination of color. Noland then turned to variations on texture, instead of space, and introduced gradients of opaqueness. With these later works, the thinning and thickening of paint in select fields unveils the complexity and multidimensionality of Noland’s pigments. In this shift, Noland not only made space for exploring inter-color relationships, but was able to showcase the dynamic interactions that forge a single color as well.

In 1964, Noland was selected to represent the United States in the Venice Biennale, and was featured in Clement Greenberg’s exhibition, “Post-Painterly Abstraction,” which first opened at LACMA. Noland’s work is held in the collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C., MoMA, New York, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

“Kenneth Noland.” Guggenheim, www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/kenneth-noland.
“Selected Exhibitions.” Kenneth Noland, www.kennethnoland.com/exhibitions/.
“Trans Shift.” Guggenheim, 28 Nov. 2018, www.guggenheim.org/artwork/3247.

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