Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)
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Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)

Amend

Details
Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)
Amend
signed, titled and dated '"AMEND" Kenneth Noland 1979' (on the reverse)
acrylic on shaped canvas
62¼ x 155 1/8in. (158 x 394cm.)
Painted in 1979
Provenance
Private Collection, USA (acquired directly from the artist).
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 2000).
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2005.
Special notice

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Lot Essay

‘… 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. I don’t know but what the very nature of our response to art is experienced symmetrically' (K. Noland, quoted in D. Waldman, ‘Color, Format and Abstract Art’, in Art in America, vol. 65, no. 3, May–June 1977, pp. 99–105).


Kenneth Noland’s monumental Amend manifests itself with an all-encompassing presence of pure form and colour. Painted in 1979, this work is a powerful example of the genre of hard-edge American abstraction that Noland pioneered since the late-1950s. All the key hallmarks of Noland’s visual language are present: eliminated of external reference and any trace of painterly gesture through the artist’s fastidious staining technique, the canvas confronts the viewer with a vast, compact self-contained, strikingly minimalist black colour field. Whilst evocative of Kazimir Malevich’s black square, Amend clearly differentiates itself with its dynamical heptagon shape and belies its status as monochrome through the subtly colored stripes that run alongside the diagonal edge of the painting. Painted in 1979, Amend is a salient example of Noland’s iconic shaped canvases, which he first pioneered with a series of diamonds or chevrons in the 1960s. Breaking with the conventions of traditional easel painting, which since the Renaissance had postulated painting as a work of contemplation, Noland’s shaped paintings, devoid of all texture, gesture or emotional content, invite the viewer to engage with them as physical objects.

The adroit Clement Greenberg, who ardently championed Noland’s practice as ‘Post-Painterly Abstraction’, brings the physicality underlying these paintings to the fore: ‘The naked fabric acts as a generalizing and unifying field; and at the same time its confessed wovenness and porousness suggests a penetrable, ambiguous plane, opening up the picture from the back so to speak’ (C. Greenberg, in J. O’Brien (ed.), Clement Greenberg: The Collected Essays and Criticism, vol. 4, Chicago 1986, p. 99). Noland’s distinctive staining technique sees him draw upon both the permeability of unprimed canvas and the chromatic purity that resulted from thinning paint, heightening and balancing this effect by his economical use abstract geometric forms. In Amend, this is strikingly exemplified by the asymmetric, seven-sided shape. Having developed from his series of diamond shaped paintings from the 1960s, this form represents the culmination of Noland’s experimentation with shaped canvases. As Noland explained, 'It’s been on my mind – what would something be like if it were unbalanced? ‘It’s been a vexing question for a long time. But 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. I don’t know but what the very nature of our response to art is experienced symmetrically' (K. Noland, quoted in D. Waldman, ‘Color, Format and Abstract Art’, in Art in America, vol. 65, no. 3, May–June 1977, pp. 99–105). It was through paintings as Amend that Noland achieved the existentialist geometric abstraction and accomplished control of colour and composition that would pave the way for the Neo-Minimalism and Neo-Geo movements in the 1980s.
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