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Par Transit, 1966

Kenneth Noland

American, 1924-2010
Acrylic on canvas
114 x 241 in. (289.6 x 612.1 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert A. Rowan

Not on view

A central figure in the style of painting known as Color Field, Kenneth Noland was one of the most inventive painters of the sixties and beyond. While studying at the adventurous Black Mountain College in North Carolina, he met critic Clement Greenberg who fostered his interest in radical art.
In 1950, Greenberg invited Noland and his friend Morris Louis to Helen Frankenthaler’s New York studio where their encounter with her soak-stain technique of painting was revelatory. Returning home to Washington, D.C., Noland and Louis devoted themselves to pushing the possibilities of this method forward, and the sheer pleasure they took in handling the materials and experimenting with color combinations set in motion the Washington Color School, which included fellow artist Thomas Downing, among others.

As opposed to Frankenthaler’s spontaneous approach with staining, Noland adopted various structures to organize his fields, including circles, chevrons and stripes. Rather than limiting creativity, these “scaffolds for color” liberated him from the worry of composition, balance and illusionism, so he could concentrate on adjustments of color and the energy and expression realized through their interaction. Noland’s perspective of “shape as
a vehicle for color” launched his experiments with scale and canvas shape, a pursuit he frequently investigated in series form. Par Transit is a classic painting from the Diamond Series. Here, close-keyed hues stained into the canvas are arranged in bands that echo the orientation of the shaped canvas support.

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