New York-Pace Gallery is pleased to present Noland Flares, an exhibition of Kenneth Noland's 'Flare' series-paintings rarely seen together since their creation in the early 1990s. The exhibition encompasses approximately fifteen works and will take place on the third floor of Pace Gallery's new building at 540 West 25th Street.
In the late 1950s, Noland broke with Abstract Expressionism's gestural aesthetic. Staining unprimed canvas with acrylic, he produced paintings with stark geometric shapes and bold colour contrasts, becoming one of the pioneers of Color Field painting and the Washington Color School. Groundbreaking series, such as his 'Circle' or 'Chevron' works, were systematic yet intuitive investigations of painting's visual elements, especially colour and shape. Eminent critics and artists soon lauded Noland's work, with Donald Judd affirming in 1965, 'by now Kenneth Noland's salience isn't debatable; he's one of the best painters.'
Noland's command over his medium only grew in the following decades. So did his ingenuity. 'I believe in working and not...repeating that way of working as an image or as a style,' he stated, stressing, 'It's the learning, it's the seeing something new evolve...out of various trial and error methods, fooling with stuff and taking chances on it not working.' Noland had adopted this hands-on, empirical approach from his close friend David Smith who in Noland's eyes was relentlessly 'involved in the nature of work.' The 'Flares' are the outcome of this rigorous and daring lifelong exploration of painting's many possibilities.
One of the 'Flares'' chief innovations resides in their colourful and translucent plexiglass strips. Wedged between the irregularly shaped panels of each work, these glossy bands activate a complex interplay among colour, materials and form. To Noland, the 'Flares' were 'constructed pictures' with 'separate component parts.' This assembling makes them related to both collage and sculpture, generating new possibilities. Realising that colour was inherent to plexiglass, Noland stated, 'I can now make up, find different kinds of materials to use that I can assimilate as colour-pieces of colour.' He, in fact, further enhanced the objecthood of the 'Flares' by painting their sides in colours that do not match their frontal surfaces. These edges, in turn, require that the works be viewed as three dimensional objects.
Noland was attracted to the transparency of plexiglass, which, according to him, amplified the emotional resonance and material presence of colour. 'The slight difference of transparency in colours can be the difference of a thousand pounds of actual material,' he observed, 'a matte colour and a shiny, transparent colour are emotionally different...there's an expressive difference you can get [with transparency] that gives you more expressive range.' In Grace Black (1991/1995), for example, austere black panels are set ablaze by the glowing red of the work's plexiglass strips. The work therefore oscillates between sobriety and vivacity-a capacious affective scale. Though Noland subsequently reworked some of his 'Flares' in his Vermont studio, they were created while he resided in Santa Barbara, where nature, specifically the changing light and colours of the landscape, continuously inspired him, according to William Agee. In a horizontal work such as Rise and Fall (1991), predominantly warm hues, punctured by a vanishing sliver of blue plexiglass, evoke the atmospheric effects of the sky at sunset. With its title suggesting the arc of the sun, Rise and Fall thus delivers the full chromatic poignancy of the Pacific coast at dusk.
Noland's interest in the triangulation between colour, materials, and form can be traced back to his education at Black Mountain College, located in his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. There his teacher Josef Albers experimented with glass and other nontraditional materials to examine what he called matière, that is, 'how a substance looks' under different conditions. Noland's collaboration with architect I.M. Pei was another important precedent. For the Weisner Building at MIT, they created in 1985 a mural integrating art and architecture. In this work as with the 'Flares', the recesses between flat planes are filled with colour. Consequently, a dynamic, optical relationship links surface and edge. 'The idea of using the interstices kind of jelled around that idea [of the MIT mural],' Noland recollected, 'And I saw the possibility also of...hav[ing] the effect be that...the eye would be moved along by differences in colour into various kinds of playful effects.' In this manner, the 'Flare' series engages viewers in a prolonged game of looking-a journey into the artist's radical reconfiguration of painting.
'[T]he 'Flares' show Noland's deliberative process at its zenith because of the rich physical particularity of each work in the series. Intriguing details abound-the precise point where two parallel curves come together, the way that a Plexiglas strip uses that point to jump from one panel to another, Noland's ever-fascinating combinations of colour encompassing both paint and Plexiglas, and much more.'-Jeffrey Katzin
Kenneth Noland (b. 1924, Asheville, North Carolina; d. 2010, Port Clyde, Maine) attended Black Mountain College in the mid-1940s after serving in the US Air Force during World War II. There he learned about Neoplasticism, Bauhaus theories, and the work of Paul Klee, thus developing an early interest in the emotional effects of colour and geometric forms. In the 1950s, while living in Washington, D.C., Noland frequently traveled to New York to meet with Clement Greenberg, who introduced him to Abstract Expressionism as well as the stained paintings of Helen Frankenthaler. These encounters sparked an experimental period, during which Noland developed a new genre of abstraction known as Color-field. His exploration of line, colour and shape unfolds across discrete series, from his 'Circle' and 'Chevron' paintings to his horizontal bands and shaped canvases. In 1977, a major travelling retrospective of the artist's work was presented by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Memorial retrospectives of his work were presented in 2010 by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Press release courtesy Pace Gallery.