KENNETH NOLAND: THE ABSTRACT PAINTER OF BRILLIANTLY COLORED SHAPES

Removing all the texture, gesture, and emotional content from the painting, the American painter Kenneth Noland's brilliantly colored concentric circles, chevrons, and stripes were among the most recognized and admired signatures of the postwar style of abstraction known as Color Field painting.

Famous for pioneering the shaped canvases, Noland was born on April 10, 1924, Asheville, North Carolina. He was a veteran of World War ll and took advantage of the G.I. Bill to study at the Black Mountain College, where he learned color theory from Josef Albers and became interested in the paintings of Paul Klee. 

In 1948, Noland traveled to Paris and studied under the Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine. In 1949, he had his first one man show at the Galerie  Raymond Creuze in Paris. After a year abroad, Noland returned to the United States and began his teaching career.

From 1949- 51, Noland taught at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Washington, D. C., then at the Catholic University, from 1951-60. He also taught at the Washington Workshop Center for the Arts from 1952-56.

Influenced by Helen Frankenthaler, Noland began applying a variety of colors to a basic circle template centered on a square canvas, creating a burst of concentric circles rendered in complementary colors that contrasted sharply against the neutral background of the square support.

From 1960s Noland began the next phase of his career and started his “Chevron” paintings, a more simple and minimalist series of abstract imagery. In the late 1960s, Noland switched to using rectangular canvases and horizontal lines in a new series he called “Stripes” (1967-70).

In the 1970s and 1980s, Noland made a brief return to chevrons and produced several differently shaped canvases. In 1999, he began work on his “Mysteries” series of paintings, which was in many respect a return to his beginnings as a formalist abstractionist of the late 1950s.

Noland represented the United States in the 1964 Venice Biennale and his work can be found in the permanent collection of Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Philips Collection in Washington, D. C., the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Tate Gallery in London among others.

Noland died in Port Clyde, ME on January 5, 2010.

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