Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)
Property from an Important Private Collection
Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)

Bolton Landing: Singing the Blues

Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)
Bolton Landing: Singing the Blues
signed, titled and dated 'Kenneth Noland 1962 BOLTON LANDING “SINGING THE BLUES"' (on the reverse); signed again, titled again and dated again 'Bolton's Landing 1962 Kenneth Noland' (on the overlap)
acrylic on canvas
63 3/8 x 63 3/8 in. (161 x 161 cm.)
Painted in 1962.
Estate of the artist
Private collection, Spain
Private collection, New York, 2014
Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles
Acquired from the above by the present owner
New York, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Kenneth Noland Paintings 1958-1968, March-April 2011.
Los Angeles, Honor Fraser Gallery, Openness and Clarity: Color Field Works from the 1960s and 1970s, June-August 2014.
Please note this work is signed again, titled again and dated again 'Bolton's Landing 1962 Kenneth Noland' (on the overlap).


Projecting great clarity and energy, the colors in Bolton Landing: Singing the Blues have a sensuous presence, which is further heightened by the rational geometry of the painting’s composition. Fields of varying blue color defined by alternating circle shapes pulse outward from the central green form, in dynamic interplay with the square shape of the painting overall, and with the edges of the canvas support. The purity of the colors and the oscillating quality of the design of Bolton Landing: Singing the Blues evoke a feeling of transcendence, calling to mind geometric symbols that are used to represent the universe by the great spiritual and philosophical traditions. The current work is a superb example of the Target paintings that Kenneth Noland began to create a few years prior, the first mature and fully realized works of his career, and a visual theme that would develop as a signature motif for the artist, one he would pursue throughout his long and distinguished career.
Bolton Landing: Singing the Blues is from Noland's early breakthrough series of Targets. Executed in 1962, a few years after experimenting with various images and staining techniques that were inspired by Helen Frankenthaler's work, Bolton Landing: Singing the Blues contains the major themes that continued to occupy Noland throughout the rest of his career. As Diane Waldman stated: "Noland's concentric circles more closely resemble Albers' concentric squares than they do Mondrian's paintings in their symmetrical organization and their juxtaposition of color. Too, Mondrian's restriction of color to white, black and the primaries and structuring of the entire surface with equal emphasis upon the center of the canvas, effected by means of the circle, and an expressive and intuitive use of a wide range of color assume the greatest importance in this, Noland's first mature body of work" (D. Waldman, Kenneth Noland: A Retrospective, New York, 1977, p. 11).
The total effect of the rational structure of the design of Bolton Landing: Singing the Blues, in its dynamic interaction with the emotional pull of the painting’s colors, is enthralling. Equally striking is Noland’s decision to tilt the canvas forty-five degrees, his inventiveness with orientation challenges the traditional practice of the canvas as a passive receptacle for the image. By rotating the canvas on its axis, the composition becomes energized, and directly shapes the impact of the paintings. The striking disorientation of a rotated canvas causes the viewer to anchor themselves visually by the four corners, bringing the perpendicular relationship between the bands and the edge of the canvas into focus, shifting the perspective of where color begins and ends in its allotted space. Color is at once fixed and displaced by the novel shape of the canvas, a vision masterfully executed by the artist.
Beginning in the early 1960s, Noland began appraising the canvas as an active tool in the artistic process. Along with Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, he developed a stain painting technique that allowed the paint to seep into the unprimed canvas. The raw base created a shocking vibrancy once the paint was applied, and the qualities of acrylic, which suspends the pigment in an oil medium, prevents the color from ever deteriorating over time. Bolton Landing: Singing the Blues thus appears as fresh as the day it was painted in 1962, and the depth of pigment embedded into the canvas gives a superlative sense of chromatic sophistication. The tonality achieved through contrast heightens each individual color and lends strength in the overall composition. As the artist explains, “Value differences in painting always cut in…Color differences always go side by side. Laterally. Color differences can illustrate three-dimensional form, but using color in terms of hue belongs more properly to painting than modeling with dark and light [as in sculpting] does” (K. Noland quoted in K. Wilkin, Kenneth Noland, New York, 1990, p. 22).
Paintings such as Bolton Landing: Singing the Blues defined Noland’s reputation as one of the great colorists of the 20th century, one of the most influential of the post-war abstract artists. Like his former professor Josef Albers, with whom he studied in 1947 at Black Mountain College, Kenneth Noland worked within a rigid compositional format and with a repeated concentric image, which allowed him to focus on color, his primary concern. Within this self-imposed restriction, Noland rigorously experimented, varying the palette, thickness of bands, color saturation and scale. "Noland's search of the ideal Platonic form has crystallized into an art in which color and form are held in perfect equilibrium. The spare geometry of his form heightens the emotional impact of his color. The rational and the felt, distilled form and sensuous color intermesh to create a magic presence. His space is color. His color is space. Color is all". (D. Waldman, Kenneth Noland: A Retrospective, New York, 1977, p. 36).

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