Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)
Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)

Blue-Green Confluence

Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)
Blue-Green Confluence
signed, titled and dated '"Blue-Green" "Confluence" Kenneth Noland 1963' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
70 1/8 x 70 1/8 in. (178.1 x 178.1 cm.)
Painted in 1963.
André Emmerich Gallery, New York
David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto
Anon. sale; Sotheby’s, London, 14 October 2006, lot 21
Private collection, Italy
Acquired from the above by the present owner
K. Moffett, Kenneth Noland, New York, 1977, p. 100, no. 131 (illustrated).


Kenneth Noland’s chevron paintings of the mid-1960s are among his most coveted, of which Blue-Green Confluence is one of the earliest examples by the artist. It is one of the first paintings he made in this series, incorporating the geometric harmony of the preceding Target series, and anticipating the disrupted chevrons of the next few years. Confluence, the act of merging, is an exercise performed only by the eye of the viewer, as Noland dictates the colors with an exactitude which holds each color firmly in place. The absolute brilliance of the paint color is delicately balanced on the work’s precise axial symmetry, which comes together in perfect harmony to encourage introspection and mediation in the viewer.
At 6 by 6 feet, Blue-Green Confluence adheres to the scale of Noland’s earlier works, just before he made the jump to extra-large canvases. Two bands of green in sage and mint stretch from corner to corner, broken up by a banded dash of cobalt blue. The bands, varying in thickness, congregate around a central axis, aligning to create the illusion of downward movement. The tip of the final chevron extends beyond the canvas, making instead the apex of the blue band, the conduit between the two green bands, the edged point. The remaining parts of the canvas are stained aubergine, bringing a warmth to Noland’s otherwise cool palette, and flooding the entire canvas with paint. The artist used a straight edge to guide his hand, and the delicate intersection between each band seems to at once begin and end simultaneously, neither blending or merging but each existing in perfect form.
Noland’s focus on color, and absolute finesse in its execution, is the base of his practice and bestows him with such accolades as the foremost Color Field painter. Inspired by and collaborating with contemporaries Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, Noland’s education in paint and its properties, how it can be thinned or built up to achieve perfect hue, becomes fundamental to his practice: “When painters start out, they usually think in terms of images; they have ideas about what they want to make. They don’t just think about materials; they make materials conform to an idea they have of the way it should look. They may get disappointed because they simply don’t have the experience or the skill to deal with the stuff to get results” (K. Noland quoted in “Kenneth Noland: Interviewed by Kathy Halbreich in Shaftsburg, Vermont, July 1977” in Kenneth Noland Paintings 1958-1989, New York, 1989, p. 48). The paint’s powerful hue made it difficult to alter the color once applied to the unprimed canvas, therefore the perfect balance between color which Noland achieves is pre-ordained and speaks to his exceptional grasp of color relations. The present work has a particular focus on color, being named literally after the flow between the three central colors. The deceptively simple title, which classifies the colors into blue or green, fails to give justice to the pleasing arrangement of color presented here, a complex arrangement akin to sophistication and delicacy of a musical piece: “They gave color a pulse which could relate specifically to other colors just as musical notes could relate to one another. They led him to what he alone could do beyond any other artist: create complex color compositions” (T. Fenton, “Kenneth Noland”, in Kenneth Noland Paintings 1958-1989, New York, 1989, p. 10).
By 1963, Noland had found success with his Target paintings, building familiarity with his staining technique that would diminish the raw tactility of the canvas in order to give the illusion of pure color. He began a series which focused on the chevron, stabilizing the new V-shape around the center of the canvas in total symmetry. The strong directional pull of the contracted V down towards the apex point is sharply met by the horizon of the canvas edge. Noland’s preconception of the canvas as an active participant in the work anticipates the Diamond paintings of the next few years, and already we can see in Blue-Green Confluence a movement towards the canvas becoming energized. There is an inherent start and stop motion to Noland’s work, a flow created by the contraction of the varying bands, their thickness, spacing, and stretched scale all working together to create optical weight and emotional resonance. The dazzling strength of Blue-Green Confluence, a musical composition of three shades of blues and greens splayed in three neighboring chevrons finds a sister composition in Noland’s 1963 world Blue Veil, now in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art.

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