Pure Colors, in Abstract

Selections from DUMA
March 31, 2003

 

Times Light, 1983 Kenneth Noland

Times Light, 1983
Kenneth Noland
Acrylic on canvas
85 x 62 inches
Gift of Julie and Lawrence Salander

Paintings by Kenneth Noland, who was born in Asheville, North Carolina, in 1924, belong to the movement in American art referred to as the second-generation or post-painterly abstractionists--the non-figurative painters who followed in the footsteps of the Abstract Expressionists of the Forties and Fifties, such as Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, and Willem de Kooning.

The greatest influences for Noland, however, were the painters in this group who specialized in filling the canvas with pure color, denying any reference to the figure, removing the hand of the artist by minimizing the appearance of the brushstroke on the surface of the picture, and creating a spiritual effect, such as the color-field artists Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.

Noland and his contemporaries, Morris Louis and Gene Davis--called the Washington Color Painters, because they lived and worked in Washington, D.C.--moved beyond color-field Abstract Expressionism. They eliminated emotional, spiritual, thematic, or subjective connotations of any kind. They were the first to assert the right to create a painting that is strictly nonrepresentational.

Times Light was given to the Duke University Museum of Art in 2002 by Julie and Lawrence Salander of the Salander-O'Reilly Galleries in New York. It is a later development of Noland's famous "target" and "chevron" paintings of the early 1960s, which he created by applying thin bands of pure color onto unbleached raw canvases. Here he maintains the chevron composition, but uses an entirely new technique: the layering of very thick strokes of acrylic paint, expertly applied, layer upon layer, as if spreading thick frosting ona cake. The result is a bold display of painterly talent, with an unusual juxtaposition of hundreds of hues: pastel pinks, whites, and lavenders against the saturated yellows and reds.