Painted in 1978, Sig marks a turning point in Kenneth Noland’s style and a new found maturity in his approach towards abstraction. Noland, an integral member of the Color Field movement, achieved prominence through his ability to highlight colors using simple geometric shapes such as concentric circles and later chevrons.
This painting, however, acts as a prime example of the next step in Noland’s conversation on abstraction and the interaction between colors, a conversation started by his mentor Josef Albers. As a student of Albers, Noland along with other notable artists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella and his good friend Jules Olitski, pushed the public conception of what could be art.
Noland joined the likes of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman in their mission of exploring the power of color through simplicity of form. Sig is an octagon of expansive unmodulated red. The unadulterated color spanning the majority of canvas forces the viewer to exist within its space rather than to observe it from a distance. The brief instances of other colors on the outer edges are reminiscent of works from his past. Noland’s earlier works, however, all dealt with symmetry from a literal and direct interpretation. Here as in his later works, he abandoned literal symmetry and instead evoked symmetry of feeling. In an interview from 1977, Noland explains, “What would something be like if it were unbalanced?... It took the experience of working with radical kinds of symmetry, not just a rectangle, but a diamond shape, as well as extreme extensions of shapes, before I finally came to the idea of everything being unbalanced, nothing vertical, nothing horizontal, nothing parallel. I came to the fact that unbalancing has its own order. In a peculiar way, it can still end up feeling symmetrical” (K. Noland, quoted by T. Fenton, Kenneth Noland: An Important Exhibition of Paintings from 1958 through 1989, exh. cat., Salander-O'reilly Galleries, 1989, P. 36).