LOT 017

1924 - 2010

acrylic on canvas
on verso signed, titled, dated 1982, inscribed "Hang exactly level from hooks" and stamped André Emmerich Gallery, New York
20 3/4 x 89 1/4 in, 52.7 x 226.7 cm

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000 CAD

Sold for: $103,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

André Emmerich Gallery, New York
Gallery One, Toronto
A Prominent Private Collection, Montreal

Gallery One, Toronto, Kenneth Noland, December 10, 1988 – January 4, 1989

Painted in 1982, Kenneth Noland’s Incresent is an important example from the series of asymmetrically shaped canvases that the artist produced in the late 1970s and very early 1980s. These slender, irregularly shaped canvases harken back to Noland’s paintings of the 1960s in technique, with their purity of colour applied in thin stains quickly absorbed into raw canvas. This “soak-stain” technique was an influence from Helen Frankenthaler, when in 1953 the art critic Clement Greenberg introduced both Noland and Morris Louis to her work during the first of many studio visits.

Noland’s premeditated staining method makes any later modification or revision impossible due to how the colour and canvas effectively become one, inseparable. This technique, as taken up by Noland, allowed him to eliminate the last vestiges of the painterliness of the Abstract Expressionists—something he achieved in Incresent in two distinct ways. Gone are the brush-strokes that had generally excited the surface of a painting and distracted from the purity of each hue. As well, his paint surface eliminates all textural qualities, leaving only colour seemingly bonded directly into the surface of the canvas.

Noland was a key member of the Washington, DC, Color School, a group of abstract artists who emerged in the late 1950s and were championed by Greenberg. Noland’s ideas and art were introduced to Canada when he was invited to lead the 1963 Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops. They were also revealed in the 1964 exhibition Post-Painterly Abstraction at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and through two decades of solo exhibitions, first at the David Mirvish Gallery and later at Gallery One. His paintings quickly entered public collections nationwide, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada.

Noland expanded the object-nature of painting with his shaped canvases and their incredible flat fields of colour. Differences in contrast on either side of his assembled hues create the optical illusion of a colour gradient, thus increasing the possibilities for a single colour, depending on its surroundings, to be perceived differently. Colour areas become gradually greater in Incresent. The dictionary meaning of the word (“becoming gradually greater”) seems to manifest before you, as the central mauve area literally swells, waxing to gain size and space. The artist pushes the material and conceptual boundaries in these paintings as if they were sculpture, objects in space. Said Noland in 1977:

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 shape, 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.[1]

Noland’s legacy as a pioneer of American abstract art is undeniable, and these shaped paintings from the 1980s represent the culmination of a lifelong exploration of what he saw as co-equal elements—colour, shape and form. He was “one of the great colourists of the 20th century,” wrote Karen Wilkin.[2] Noland’s paintings reveal “the potency of colour, rooted in a belief that relationships of hues, like music, directly and wordlessly stir our deepest emotional and intellectual reserves.”[3]

We thank Gary Dufour, adjunct associate professor at the University of Western Australia, for contributing the above essay. A modern and contemporary art specialist, Dufour was formerly the senior curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery (1988 – 1995) and chief curator / deputy director of the Art Gallery of Western Australia (1995 – 2013).

1. Quoted in Diane Waldman, “Color, Format and Abstract Art,” Art in America 65, no. 3 (May 1977): 100.

2. Quoted in William Grimes, “Kenneth Noland, Abstract Painter of Brilliantly Colored Shapes,” New York Times, January 6, 2010.

3. Karen Wilkin, “Kenneth Noland,” The Paris Review, no. 149 (Winter 1998): 236.

Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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