Kenneth Noland - 20th c. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Thursday, July 2, 2020 | Phillips

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  • In Short

    “I’m a one-shot painter.”
    – Kenneth Noland 

    Painted in 1979, Kenneth's Noland Resect is an important example of the discrete series of asymmetrical shaped canvases that the artist made between the late 1970s and early 1980s. Commonly referred to as Surfboards paintings, these slender, irregularly shaped canvases harken back to Noland's seminal series of Needle Diamonds from the 1960s, all the while exemplifying the remarkable degree of complexity and experimentation with which the artist was pushing his practice to new heights. Resect is notably among the last paintings created with Noland's highly controlled and premeditated staining method, whereby any modification or revision is nearly impossible due to his application of thinned paint onto raw canvas. Created just two years after the artist's first ever retrospective, held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1977, this work speaks to a defining moment in Noland's career.

  • The Washington Color School

    Noland was a key member of the Washington Color School, a group of abstract painters based in Washington, D.C., who emerged in the late-1950s and flourished to great acclaim in the 1960s.


    Many of the artists had been included in Clement Greenberg’s Post-painterly Abstraction exhibition in 1964 alongside likeminded artists such as Frank Stella, Helen Frankenthaler and Sam Francis, yet it was the 1965 exhibition The Washington Color Painters that traveled from the now defunct Washington Gallery of Modern Art to such institutions as the Walker Art Center which truly cemented the group’s reputation. While the exhibition included the work of Noland, Morris Louis, Paul Reed, Howard Mehring, Thomas Downing, and Gene Davis, the broader Washington Color School also came to encompass artist such as Sam Gilliam and Alma Thomas. 

    The Washington Color Painters : Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Gene ...
    Cover of the exhibition catalogue The Washington Color Paintings, Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Washington, D.C., 1965.


    United by an emphasis on color and a keen sense of experimentation, these artists represented a cool and reduced aesthetic that served as a counterpoint to the New York School. Rejecting the painterly gestures and heavily worked surfaces of Abstract Expressionism, many of the Washington Color School artists embraced novel painting techniques that both elaborated upon and disrupted the ethos of Color Field painting.  The “soak stain” method that Frankenthaler had pioneered in the early 1950s served as a model for many of these artists in their pursuit of exploring the materiality of painting. Noland, along with Louis, was among the first to learn of her novel technique when Clement Greenberg introduced them to her work during a studio visit in 1953.


    Greenberg considered these color fields as the purest form of modern painting: effectively opening up the possibilities of Jackson Pollock’s revolutionary drip technique, the stain technique enabled a “purely optical” experience of painting. The semi-transparent expanses of variegated color that stain the canvas weave draw attention to the flatness of the picture plane, freeing it from the shackles of illusory, pictorial space and instead emphasizing it as a literal, physical surface. The object-nature of painting was further expanded upon by Noland, as well as Sam Gilliam, in their radical reconsideration of the very shape and structure of the canvas itself.

  • In Focus

    Resect exemplifies how Nolan continued to explore the formal and conceptual boundaries of his shaped canvases that had garnered him widespread critical acclaim as one of the most innovative purveyors of American abstraction. Towards the late 1970s, Noland, having experimented with a range of unconventional canvas shapes, began a discrete series of asymmetrical canvases often referred to as his Surfboard paintings. 

    These works represented a powerful extension of Noland's seminal Needle and Diamond shaped canvases from the 1960s. As in those early works, Noland here investigates the notion of painting as a discrete object: imbuing the canvas with an active role in energizing the composition, the border of the canvas to become as structurally important as its center. Resect, with its dynamic attenuated form and peripheral bands of color, dramatizes the relationship and creates an exacting, yet sophisticated, balance of color and structure – bringing Noland’s exploration of the painterly frontier to its apotheosis.


    Kenneth Noland

    Kenneth Noland in his South Salem, New York studio, 1982. Artwork © Estate of Kenneth Noland

    "I finally came to the idea of everything being unbalanced, nothing vertical, nothing horizontal, nothing parallel."
    – Kenneth Noland


    Working with a series of templates, Noland imposed the canvas shape onto an unstretched canvas and soaked it with heavily diluted paint. Resect is notably one of the last canvasses Noland completed with this “soak-stain” technique. The concentrated simplicity and linearity of Resect presents the bands of color and the edges of the artwork to the viewer as if their dramatic confrontation is a force of nature rather than a result of the artist’s creation, emphasizing the complex interchange between painting and surface.




    • Provenance

      André Emmerich Gallery, New York
      Private Collection
      Sotheby's, New York, February 19, 1988, lot 186
      Private Collection, Aukrug
      Private Collection (acquired from the above)
      Christie’s, New York, September 26, 2013, lot 126
      Private Collection
      Almine Rech Gallery, Paris
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Paris, Almine Rech Gallery, Kenneth Noland, April 18 - May 25, 2019



signed, titled and dated ""RESECT" Kenneth Noland 1979” on the reverse
acrylic on shaped canvas
21 1/4 x 119 1/4 in. (54 x 302.9 cm)
Painted in 1979.

Full Cataloguing

$200,000 - 300,000 

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th c. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 2 July 2020