Kenneth Noland - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 16, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Inc., New York (acquired directly from the artist)
    Private Collection, United States (acquired from the above in October 1989)
    Sotheby's, New York, May 11, 2011, lot 163
    Private Collection (acquired at the above sale)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Salander-O'Reilly Galleries, Inc., Kenneth Noland: An Important Exhibition of Paintings from 1958-1989, October - November 1989, cover (illustrated)

  • Literature

    Karen Wilkin, Kenneth Noland, New York, 1990, no. 26, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “When you look at a great painting it's like a conversation. It has questions for you. It raises questions in you.” – Kenneth Noland

    An early example of Kenneth Noland’s celebrated Diamond series, Untitled stands as one of the artist’s earliest works on shaped canvas – a technique he innovated and that cemented him as one of the most important purveyors of American abstraction. Conceived in 1965, this work manifests itself with an all-encompassing presence of pure form and sublime color. Untitled in particular belongs to the discrete group of so-called “square diamonds” from 1964-1965, in which the artist developed his signature chevron motif further in the realm of the shaped canvas. As is characteristic for works from this early period, such as C., 1964, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, or Saturday Night, 1965, Untitled is notable for its bold but harmonious interplay of green, red and blue color – at times subtly bleeding into each other, other times clearly demarcated as crisp lines. The result of 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, here the picture plane is transformed into a serene color field that is charged by the dynamism of its formal composition. Of the relatively few Diamond paintings in Noland’s oeuvre, Untitled stands out as a stellar example in private hands, its significance underscored by its illustration on the front cover of the artist’s solo exhibition catalogue for the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries in 1989.

    The chevron emerged as the defining element in Noland’s practice from 1963, replacing the formal motif of the concentric circle that had marked his artistic breakthrough in the late 1950s. While the V-shaped chevron motif at first fanned out symmetrically from a central vertical axis, Untitled demonstrates how, by 1964, he had begun to experiment with alternative possibilities – placing the chevron off-center to emphasize the tension between bounded and unbounded space, reducing the number of color bands and experimenting with more neutral colors. Taking the chevron into the domain of the shaped picture for the first time with works such as the this, Noland turned his squared canvases on end to achieve a dynamic composition whereby the edges of the chevron parallel those of the canvas support. In doing so, Noland imbued the canvas with an active role in energizing the composition – allowing the external shape of the canvas to become as structurally important as its center. As such, Untitled not only represents the culmination of the artist’s instantly recognizable chevron, but is also a significant precursor to the needle diamonds of the mid to late 1960s and the acclaimed asymmetrical shaped canvases of the 1970s and 1980s.

    While working in the lineage of artistic forebears such as Piet Mondrian and Ilya Bolotowsky, Noland’s teachers at Black Mountain College, these square diamond canvases represent a major innovation in the history of modern art. As art historian Kenworth Moffett already noted in 1979 in reference to this series, “Noland thinks more abstractly” than Mondrian, “and, characteristically, he interlocks the outside and the inside. The diamond is used to accommodate not lines but colored bands in chevron formation…At once open and delimited, they have no unambiguous, behind-the-frame feeling; they seem to be simultaneously a cutout from a series of larger chevrons marching off in one direction and a completely self-sufficient picture object” (Kenworth Moffett, Kenneth Noland, New York, 1979, p. 56). While demonstrating Noland’s undisputed abilities as a colorist, Untitled thus epitomizes a major milestone in the artist's career-long pursuit of achieving a harmonious union between support image.

Property of a Distinguished Private Collector

Ο ◆39


signed and dated "Kenneth Noland 1965" on the reverse
acrylic on canvas
63 1/2 x 63 1/2 in. (161.3 x 161.3 cm.)
Painted in 1965.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $557,500

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 November 2017