Magazine article Art Monthly

Kenneth Noland 1924-2010

Magazine article Art Monthly

Kenneth Noland 1924-2010

Article excerpt

Kenneth Noland, the American abstract painter, has died of cancer at the age of 85. He was an artist claimed by many camps whose work resisted conforming to any of them. The term 'PostPainterly Abstraction'--coined by the formalist critic Clement Greenberg with Noland very much in mind--is itself a negative definition, meant approvingly: Noland was not 'painterly' on Greenberg's terms, but then what was he? He missed the earlier era of Abstract Expressionism as much as he missed--or dodged the implications of the later Minimalism, with the work of Frank Stella, a near-contemporary stripe painter, being one of the earliest manifestations.

More recently, Noland's work has been linked to Liam Gillick's investigations of the political and social contexts of design vocabularies, and its influence extends to other artists emerging in the 1990s--such as Jorge Pardo and Tobias Rehberger--who exploit the ambiguities between abstract art and design, as well as to younger artists who have reinvigorated formalist painting over the past decade, such as Sergej Jensen and Anselm Reyle. Gillick in particular looks back to Noland's painting through the methodologies of a conceptualism which succeeded it, connecting it to the US corporate expansion of the 1960s. In these terms, there is no essential distinction between a Noland three-stripe shaped canvas and a corporate design logo of the period. By the late-1960s both would be adorning the lobbies of New York banks and advertising agencies. The repeated images of architectural modernism in 1970s US conspiracy movies, such as The Parallax View, made of the Nolandesque grid a defining image of both an all-devouring US capitalism and its political hegemony. So much for the ivory tower of formalist abstraction. And yet design was something Noland would have considered anathema, another take on the popular dismissal of his art as mere decoration. …

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