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

Spring Call

Kenneth Noland (1924-2010)
Spring Call
signed, titled and dated '"Spring Call" 1961 Kenneth Noland' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
82 ½ x 82 ½ in. (209.6 x 209.6 cm.)
Painted in 1961.
André Emmerich Gallery, New York
Walter and Dawn Clark Netsch, Chicago
Their sale; Sotheby’s, New York, 5 May 1995, lot 21
Private collection, Palm Beach
L.A. Louver, Venice, California
Private collection, Toronto
New York, The Jewish Museum, Kenneth Noland, February-March 1965, no. 10 (illustrated).
Iowa City, University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, Living with Art: Selected Loans from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walter A. Netsch, September-October 1971, p. 11, no. 22 (installation view illustrated).
Oxford, Ohio, Miami University Art Museum and University of Notre Dame, Snite Museum of Art, Living with Art: The Collection of Walter and Dawn Clark Netsch, September 1983-March 1984, pl. 38 (illustrated).
Miami, Gagosian Gallery and Jeffrey Deitch, Pop Minimalism Minimalist Pop, December 2018.
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“[Noland’s]…“Circles” of the 1950s and ’60s were like silent detonations in the history of modern art.” James Panero, The New Criterion, January 2018

Measuring over 80 inches square, Kenneth Noland’s Spring Call, is one of the largest examples of his iconic Circles paintings. Following a visit to Helen Frankenthaler’s studio in the 1950s, Noland embraced her “soak-stain” technique to produce a body of work that became one of the most radical departures from the accepted conventions of abstraction. His organized bands of concentric circles radiating from a central core were diametrically opposed to the seemingly uncontrolled gestures of his peers, and since 1958, Noland’s paintings have been regarded as the quintessential specimens of Color Field Painting. His staining technique endowed the surface of his paintings with a revolutionary degree of unity with the canvas, and along with Morris Louis and Jules Olitski, Noland was championed by Clement Greenberg, the most influential critic and arbiter of twentieth century American Modernism as well as the foremost theorist on advanced modernist painting.  

Distinguished by its core of deep red pigment, Spring Call radiates outwards with concentric circles of alternating painted and raw canvas. The warm, rich center is complemented by these narrow rings which are repeated, alternating between coronas of orange and teal, before ending in a seemingly expanding halo of soft pink. These shifting, almost pulsating fields of color were of primary importance to the artist, often saying “I wanted to have color be the origin of the painting… I was trying to neutralize the layout, the shape, the composition … I wanted to make color the generating force” ( 

At nearly seven-foot square, Spring Call is one of the largest of his Circle paintings, and the artist’s preferred size for this series. Likening this to Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, the art historian William Agee noted that these canvases were approximately the same size as the height and reach of a grown man. Noland himself noted that the size of these large-scale Circle paintings felt “…right in terms of myself, and wasn’t too much of a field,” or that “it was a field, yet still physical.” He recalled the influence of the painter Willem de Kooning’s method for determining the size of his canvases: “If I stretch my arms next to the rest of myself and wonder where my fingers are’, de Kooning described in 1951, “that is all the space I need as a painter” (Ibid). 

As a critic, Donald Judd was an ardent admirer of Noland’s work, and writing in the magazine Art International in April 1965, he described the artist as “one of the best painters.” He particularly praised Noland’s use of color and space to produce the effect of movement in the stationary surface of the canvas. “Obviously there is shallow space, and, as it isn’t actual space, it’s illusionistic, but none of the usual ways of creating space, the usual kinds of space, are used,” Judd wrote. “The only space is that made by a fairly immaterial mark on a surface. The surface bends to the mark. It’s elementary space. The arrangement of the marks enforces their position, but primarily the colors and their values establish the projection and recession of the surface.” He even spoke particular highly about the present work, noting “The space is never great or illusionistic enough to deny the canvas. Inner WayReverberation and Spring Call, all from 1961, are similar to Turnsole and as fine.” (D. Judd, “New York Letter,” Art International, April 1965, accessed via Turnsole is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and is widely regarded to be one of the preeminent examples of Noland’s Circles paintings.

Noland’s embracing of geometric shapes and clean lines allied him with the newly-minted school of hard-edge painting. In contrast to the diaphanous clouds of Frankenthaler or the frenetic sweeps of Pollock, works like Spring Call take a sharp, minimal approach that refers visually to the color studies of Josef Albers. However, where Albers ruminated on interactions and complementary hues, Noland focused more on compositional structure and the direct contrast of each colored band to its neighbors and the painting at large. "I do open paintings," Noland maintained. "I like lightness, airiness, and the way color pulsates. The presence of the painting is all that's important" (K. Noland, quoted in K. Moffett, Kenneth Noland, New York, 1977, p. 51). In the present example, the colors engage the viewer as both individuals and as a contrasting whole. Noland’s decisive compositions were at odds with earlier, more painterly works by the New York School, and primed the debate on where the future of painting lay.

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