Greenberg Lots 275 276
Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)
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The Collection of Jenny and Clement Greenberg
Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)

New Problem

Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)
New Problem
signed, titled and dated 'New Problem 1962 Kenneth Noland' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
69 5/8 x 71 7/8 in. (176.8 x 182.6 cm.)
Painted in 1962.
Jenny and Clement Greenberg, New York, acquired directly from the artist
By descent from the above to the present owner
C. Greenberg, "3 New American Painters," Canadian Art, June 1963, p. 173 (illustrated).
Regina, Saskatchewan, Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, Three American Painters: Louis, Noland, Olitski, January-February 1963.
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Toledo Museum of Art, Kenneth Noland: A Retrospective, April 1977-February 1978, p. 66, no. 25 (illustrated).

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Joanna Szymkowiak
Joanna Szymkowiak

Lot Essay

Projecting great clarity and energy, the colors in New Problem have a sensuous presence, which is further heightened by the rational geometry of the painting’s composition. Fields of color defined by an alternating circle and ellipsoid shapes pulse outward from the central spherical form, in dynamic interplay with the rectangular shape of the painting overall, and with the edges of the canvas support. The purity of the colors and the oscillating quality of the design of New Problem evoke a feeling of transcendence, calling to mind geometric symbols that are used to represent the universe by the great spiritual and philosophical traditions. The current work is a superb example of the concentric circle paintings that Noland began to create in the late 1950s, the first mature and fully realized works of his career, and a visual theme that would develop as a signature motif for the artist, one he would pursue throughout his long and distinguished life.

It was the artist’s keen interest in exploring the relationship between the central image and the containing boundaries of the canvas surface that led Noland to embark on a series of studies of concentric ring imagery, using atypical but optically intriguing color combinations, as exemplified in New Problem. His use of unprimed canvases and paint applied in thin washes of pure, saturated color established a new direction for abstract art. New Problem reflects the influence of Noland’s meeting with the great pioneer of Color Field painting, Helen Frankenthaler, who introduced him to the technique of applying thinned colors onto raw canvas to achieve an enhanced chromatic purity, and also bears the traces of Noland’s studies of color theory with artist and educator Josef Albers.

The circles motif and other simple forms that he placed on his canvases echoed deeply for Noland, a shape perhaps lodged in his visual memory by way of the consumer brand logos and advertising imagery of the postwar American boom economy that had such an impact on artists of the 1960s, or possibly through the theories of Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, whose writings were known to Noland. The total effect of the rational structure of the design of New Problem, in its dynamic interaction with the emotional pull of the painting’s colors, is enthralling. Paintings such as New Problem defined Noland’s reputation as one of the great colorists of the 20th century, one of the most influential of the postwar abstract artists.

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